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Leknessund parlays 'TV time' attack into unexpected Arctic Race victory

Andreas Leknessund (Team DSM) celebrates his overall victory on the podium after the Arctic Race of Norway
Andreas Leknessund (Team DSM) celebrates his overall victory on the podium after the Arctic Race of Norway (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

For the first time since the race's inaugural edition nine years ago, the Arctic Race of Norway celebrated a home winner on Sunday following Andreas Leknessund's audacious long-range attack in Trondheim.

The 23-year-old, who hails from the northern city of Tromsø within the Arctic Circle, was out front for two-thirds of the final 159km stage on Sunday, eventually crossing the line 35 seconds ahead of former race leader Victor Lafay (Cofidis) to clinch the overall.

Speaking after the conclusion of the race and the long podium ceremony, where he took plaudits for the stage, overall, and youth classification, Leknessund said that he was surprised with how he recovered from a disappointing stage 3 to carry out his exploit the next day.

"The first three days were not great. Especially yesterday, I was disappointed about my legs. So yesterday evening and also this morning in my head I just wanted to finish the race and get home," Leknessund told Cyclingnews.

"We agreed in the team meeting today that I just start today easy and see how the legs react after the disappointment yesterday. Then we look for the local laps and see if I feel better. So no, it was definitely not the plan, but that makes it more special."

Leknessund, who was chased by a strong group on the closing laps in Trondheim, eventually crossed the line 16 seconds up on anyone else. He would – after some calculations involving bonus seconds taken during the day – finish the race eight and nine seconds up on second- and third-placed Hugo Houle (Israel-Premier Tech) and Nicola Conci (Alpecin-Deceuninck).

"I was a bit surrendered in my head and then when the attacks were going for quite long, I decided I'd just try to jump in and then I can at least get something out of the day," Leknessund admitted, noting that he hadn't been home since before the Tour de France.

"When we went away with three guys, it just felt like a normal 'TV attack'. But my goal was just to get one lap on my own to see the crowds and create a show. Then I got one lap and then two laps, three laps, four laps, and then a win. It's really unbelievable."

The wins join the hilly second stage of the Tour de Suisse at the top of Lekessund's palmarès, the Norwegian having enjoyed a summer to remember ahead of upcoming races in Canada.

He's one of the top young talents in the peloton and now, in his second year with Team DSM, is showing that he's really breaking through to win big races for the first time.

"It was really special," Leknessund said. "Also to win in Norway and especially in the Arctic race. I grew up above the Arctic circle in Tromsø. I've seen this race since I was a small kid and really also looked up to the riders. First of all, just doing the race is special for me.

"I had friends in the bunch, friends on the side of the road, family. So that was really special, and it also gave a lot of motivation."

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