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Leknessund wins first organised European race since COVID-19 lockdown

LAGOA PORTUGAL FEBRUARY 23 Andreas Leknessund of Norway and UnoX Norwegian Development Team during the 46th Volta ao Algarve 2020 Stage 5 a 203km Individual Time Trial stage from Lagoa to Lagoa ITT VAlgarve2020 on February 23 2020 in Lagoa Portugal Photo by Tim de WaeleGetty Images
Andreas Leknessund (Uno-X) in action at the Volta ao Algarve earlier this season (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Wednesday saw the first outdoor race between professional cyclists held in western Europe since the COVID-19 pandemic shut down racing in mid-March. The Klatrekongen Fuel of Norway race, an uphill individual time trial, was won by Andreas Leknessund of the Uno-X Development Team.

The 20-year-old, who is to step up to the WorldTour with Team Sunweb next year, set a time of 10:12 over the 4.1km course, which averaged 7.1 per cent. He beat Tobias Foss (Jumbo-Visma) by 21 seconds, while Ådne Holter (Joker Fuel of Norway) finished third at 34 seconds.

The race, which is not an official event on the UCI European calendar, was organised in secret by Team Ineos directeur sportif Gabriel Rasch and Tour of Norway director Birger Hungerholdt in order to limit any crowds.

Norway has been under lockdown since March 12, and has suffered 8,168 cases and 229 deaths. Earlier this month, the country's government announced a loosening of restrictions, with schools now open and more measures to be relaxed throughout June.

Organisers followed a strict anti-coronavirus protocol, with control measures in place including riders starting one by one and no roadside audience – hence the secretive organisation.

"The reason we keep it secret is where we want to be, because we don't want to have a lot of people here in the situation we are in," said Hungerholdt on the race website. "We therefore try to keep it 'closed' so that we could do this in a proper and safe manner.

Several WorldTour riders are taking part in the race, including the NTT Pro Cycling duo of Edvald Boasson Hagen and Rasmus Tiller and Lotto Soudal's Carl Frederik Hagen. 

Boasson Hagen, the three-time Tour de France stage winner and biggest name on the start list, finished in sixth in the hill climb, 43 seconds down on Leknessund.

"It was harder than I expected. It was hard," Leknessund told TV2 after the race. "I went out hard hoping it would last, and it did. I wanted to go fast. I've made good preparations in recent days. I was motivated."

Stage 1 result
Pos.Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Andreas Leknessund (Nor) Uno-X Norwegian Development Team0:10:12
2Tobias Foss (Nor) Team Jumbo-Visma0:00:21
3Ådne Holter (Nor) Joker Fuel of Norway0:00:34
4Iver Knotten (Nor) Team Coop0:00:37
5Carl Frederik Hagen (Nor) Lotto Soudal0:00:39
6Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) NTT Pro Cycling0:00:43
7Rasmus Tiller (Nor) NTT Pro Cycling0:00:57
8Torstein Træen (Nor) Uno-X Norwegian Development Team0:01:28
9Øivind Lukkedahl (Nor) Joker Fuel of Norway0:01:34
10Trond Håkon Trondsen (Nor) Team Coop0:01:34