With the World Road Championships taking place in Norway this year, the Arctic Race of Norway has unveiled a punchy 2017 route that could attract some of the Worlds contenders a month ahead of the big week of racing.
The fifth edition of the race will once again feature four stages, which will cover many of the icy fjords in the north of the country – similar terrain to the start of the Worlds – and plenty of short climbs of the ilk of those that that will be so crucial on the Worlds finishing circuit in Bergen. Gianni Moscon (Team Sky) won 500kg of salmon as one of the prizes for overall victory in 2016, offering an extra incentive to the riders.
The first stage starts out on the island of Andorja, which once held a race that was the inspiration for the Arctic Race, and features the same finishing circuit that was used in 2015 when Silvan Dillier took stage honours and Rein Taaramae wrapped up the overall title. After a couple of climbs earlier in the stage, the circuit features the Skistua climb, 2.3km long at 6.6 per cent, which, topping out 5km from the line, should provide the launchpad for the action.
The second stage is one for the sprinters, who, at the end of a flat 177.5km leg from Sjovegan, will have the unique opportunity of sprinting on an airport runway at Bardufoss.
Stage 3 will have the riders testing out their climbing legs – and enjoying some impressive scenery – as the race heads into the Lyngen Alps. The summit finish in Finnvikdalen isn’t as tough as last year – where Moscon triumphed en route to overall victory – but the four kilometre climb with an average of 5.5 per cent should still form the key battleground in the fight for the general classification.
The final stage starts and finishes in the city of Tromso, where Norwegians Alexander Kristoff and Thor Hushovd went head to head in a sprint for the line on the final day of the 2014 edition. Riders will complete a flat 118km loop before a punchy finishing circuit in Tomso, with the Prestvannet (1.2km at 7.5 per cent) and Rostbanken (1.1km at 7.5 per cent) climbs to be negotiated four and three times, respectively.
"This year's Arctic Race of Norway is a good mix between the 2014 and 2015 editions of the race, with the same spectacular finishes in Narvik and Tromsø,” said former world champion Hushovd, who’s an ambassador for the race.
“The course, which mainly weaves its way through Troms, is perfect for puncheurs, with three stages which appear to favour them. Sprinters will also get a good chance to shine in stage 2, with a spectacular and unique finish on the runway of Bardufoss Airport."
"Any sprinters who manage to hold on in stages 1 and 4 could also be in the fight for the blue and orange jersey. On a personal level, I'm delighted to see the race return to Tromsø, where I finished my last race in Norway in 2014. Even though I didn't win, I've kept great memories of the fantastic atmosphere and the local support for my last race on home turf."
Thursday, 10 August — Stage 1: Engenes (Andørja) – Narvik (156.5 km)
Friday, 11 August — Stage 2: Sjøvegan – Bardufoss (177.5 km)
Saturday, 12 August — Stage 3: Lyngseidet (Lyngen Alps) – Finnvikdalen (Tromsø) (185.5 km)
Sunday, 13 August — Stage 4: Tromsø – Tromsø (160.5 km)