Astana's Alexey Lutsenko issued a statement of intent ahead of next month's UCI Road World Championships in Yorkshire with a dramatic final-day victory at the Arctic Race of Norway on Sunday. The Kazakh champion toppled Warren Barguil (Arkea-Samsic) in a nail-biting battle on the finishing circuit in Narvik that came down to bonus seconds.
Lutsenko had built his victory by making a 33-rider split on the frenetic rolling opening stage on the Lofoten islands and then limiting his losses to Barguil on the short-but-steep Storheia summit finish on Saturday, before snatching it at the very last.
The Norway parcours, Lutsenko noted, bears a lot of similarities to the terrain on which he'll be racing at the Worlds in Yorkshire in a bid for the rainbow jersey on September 29. As such, his ambitions are high.
"I think Yorkshire will be a really good Worlds for me," Lutsenko told reporters in Narvik after raising the trophy. "It will be a similar parcours to here – up and down all the time.
"I'm going to do the maximum I can to go there and try to win. I'm preparing 100 per cent, and this was a good first step."
Lutsenko has had a fine season so far. There was no stage win at the Tour de France but the Norway victory is his eighth of the year, following three stages and the overall at the Tour of Oman, a stage of Tirreno-Adriatico, and the road race-time trial double at the Kazakh national championships.
At 26, he is growing in stature and confidence. When it comes to one-day racing, he has finished third at Dwars door Vlaanderen, fourth at the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, and seventh at Strade Bianche in recent years.
Asked if he believed he could become world champion next month, he simply said: "For sure. For sure."
Lutsenko will not go to Yorkshire to recon the course before Worlds week, nor will he race the Tour of Britain. Instead, he'll keep his foot on the gas, following a July spent at the Tour de France, with a two-week altitude camp planned to hone his condition.
"Tomorrow I'll go home and rest for one week, then I'll be back racing. I'll do the Deutschland Tour [August 29-September 1], before going to altitude for a two-week training camp for the world championships," he said.
"Before going to Yorkshire I'll do a couple of one-day Classics in Italy, at which point hopefully the legs will be in top condition."