Six years on from his first victory atop the remote Målselv summit finish at the Arctic Race of Norway, Ben Hermans repeated the feat in the 2021 race, edging out Odd Christian Eiking on the line at the end of stage 3.
The Belgian, whose contract with Israel Start-Up Nation is set to expire at the end of the season, said after the stage that he hopes his victory – his second of the summer after the Giro dell'Appennino – means that he can extend his stay at the team.
"I hope this kind of win results in a new contract with the team," said the 35-year-old, who joined the team back in 2018.
Earlier in the race, Hermans had said that his future was still up in the air, adding that he wanted to remain at his current squad even beyond a standard two-year contract length.
"Can I finish my career here? It's another question but it's always possible," he told WielerFlits. "But I'm 35. I don't think a two-year contract is enough. As soon as I feel I can't win anymore, I will stop. But I won't be doing it now."
Hermans' win was his ninth with the team, with two editions of the Tour of Austria and the 2019 Tour of Utah also on his palmarès. He's now in pole position to add another stage race – the 2021 Arctic Race of Norway – to that, though the hilly finish of Sunday's final stage lies in the way.
"It was so nice because I also won here in 2015 and I've replayed this finish many times when I was riding on the rollers because it was so surprising that I won," he said after the finish.
"Then, they never saw me in the front. It was really nice to do it again just the same. When you start as a favourite there's a really big thing that falls off your shoulders. I'm so happy that I could finish this off for the team.
"I know that some guys who were there with me – the last six or seven riders – were more explosive than me and that's why I went at 500 metres, 95 per cent, almost all out, and I could match them in the sprint after the corner. If you have good legs and you start at 250 metres to go with all you have, it's very difficult to pass. It was good I knew this finish."
Hermans persevered through a chain problem and puncture on stage 3 and said that he hopes his share of bad luck is behind him ahead of the final stage. After winning on Målselv in 2015 he held a seven-second lead heading into the final stage but lost out on the overall title after missing a decisive break.
"Now I hope to keep that jersey," he said. "Then it will be a revenge for six years ago. I won this stage then but lost it on the last day due to bad luck. Let's hope I've had my share of that today."
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