Saturday’s stage from Senja to Målselv features a punishing final climb and should see the overall landscape at the race shift with the sprinters, such as Krsitoff, giving way to the more capable climbers.
In Kristoff’s Katusha ranks is the ideal candidate in Ilnur Zakarin, who won the Tour of Romandie and a stage of the Giro d’Italia earlier this year.
“Zakarin can have his chance tomorrow and he can climb as fast as he wants,” Kristoff told Cyclingnews at the finish of stage 2, in which he finished third behind Sam Bennett (Bora-Argon 18) and Federico Zurlo (UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling).
Kristoff remains in the lead, holding a two second advantage over compatriot Edvald Boasson Hagen but with a gallery of climbers within touching distance of the race lead, Kristoff is resigned to the likely outcome of losing his jersey.
“Now it will be two tough days but we’ll see tomorrow. Maybe I won't lose too much time but I think it [holding the race lead] will be difficult. On paper it looks too hard but I’ll try. The final stage is also quite hard so the next few days are going to be difficult. I’ll try to win but tomorrow it’s not possible.”
On stage 2 to the Arctic Race of Norway dissected its way east, along stunningly beautiful and rolling terrain. Kristoff looked to be in pole position when his team marshalled their way to the front of the peloton inside the final few kilometres but Bennett’s plucky sprint won the day.
“I had to break with 250 meters to go because the Saxo leadout went into our path and we had to go around them. That almost put us in the barriers. I managed to come around but I lost a lost of speed and then it was too late. Then Sam came with a lot of speed and I couldn’t pass the last two guys.”
“I was one of the fastest today but I was just a bit unlucky. I wanted to win on home soil again but we didn’t get it right in the finale.”