Lars-Petter Nordhaug finally delivered a victory for Belkin, at stage 1 of the Arctic Race of Norway, since joining the team two years ago. His last win was the 2012 Grand Prix Cycliste de Montréal with Team Sky.
The Arctic Race of Norway opening win came at the right time as the Norwegian is up for contract at the age of 30. It was also an historical event as a bike race had never taken place as far north as the North Cape, at the top end of mainland Europe.
“It’s amazing for a Norwegian to win a race here in Norway, especially at this place it’s really good,” Nordhaug reacted after winning solo.
“I was feeling super but it looked like the sprinters [Thor Hushovd, Alexander Kristoff and Marcel Kittel] would maybe fight for the victory, so my first attack was to make a selection but it was only Spilak who came after me, then I went again. We are the strongest team at this race for the overall. It’s our goal to win the Arctic Race of Norway. That’s why we had two guys pulling at the front all day.”
Belkin’s directeur sportif Michiel Elijzen was amazed by his riders’ show, two of them, Steven Kruijswijk and Jonathan Hivert made the top five as well.
“The guys did an awesome job today,” the Dutchman told Cyclingnews. “They’ve been pulling all day. They were obligated to do so because of the ambitions we have here for winning the overall classification.”
Nordhaug’s form was nothing new to Elijzen, who directed him at the Tour de Pologne last week. “He did very well in the last two days,” the coach said. “The results show it [eighth on the second last stage and third in the mountains classification]. He told us last week that he’d be very motivated for winning the Arctic Race of Norway, so he was our lone leader today, even though we have three riders up there at the end.
“We had high expectations when we hired him,” Elijzen continued. “He also had high expectation for himself. He has had ups and downs in those two seasons but now he’s motivated and in good shape. He’ll go to the Vuelta with the confidence of this win today. We’ll have two GC riders there: Wilco Kelderman and Robert Gesink but there are eight uphill finishes in Spain. At least one of them should suit him for a stage win. He’s got the skills for that.”