Boasson Hagen headlines strongest-ever Tour of Norway field
The third edition of the race, which the UCI bumped up to 2.HC status this year, will feature fast finishes for the likes of Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) and Theo Bos (MTN-Qhubeka) as well as climbing routes for riders like Matthias Frank (IAM Cycling) and Rein Taaramäe (Astana).
"This'll be the strongest field ever seen in a professional cycling race in Norway,” said race director Knut-Eirik Dybdal.
The presence of 12 Tour de France teams, including seven World Tour outfits, is a new record for a Norwegian race.
"When I came to North Cape last year I discovered a huge craze for cycling in a part of the world with not so many inhabitants,” said ASO’s Christian Prudhomme.
This will be Boasson Hagen’s first time at the race, and he’ll be flanked by Daniel Teklehaimanot, fresh from a stint in the Tour’s polka-dot jersey, as well as sprinters Bos and Gerald Ciolek.
Other contenders for the general classification include Rein Taaramäe (Astana), Linus Gerdemann and Fabian Wegmann (Cult Energy), Silvan Dilier (BMC), Ilia Koshevoy and José Serpa (Lampre-Merida), among others.
Sprinters ready to contest the flat stages include Niccolò Bonifazio and Davide Cimolai (Lampre-Merida), Sam Bennett (Bora-Argon 18), Jonas Ahlstrand (Cofidis), Robert Förster (United Healthcare), Russell Downing (Cult Energy) and Yauheni Hutarovich (Bretagne-Séché Environnement).
2015 Tour of Norway teams:
Astana, BMC, IAM Cycling, Lampre-Merida, Giant-Alpecin, Katusha, Tinkoff-Saxo, Bora-Argon 18, Bretagne-Séché Environnement, Cofidis, Europcar, Cult Energy, MTN-Qhubeka, Novo Nordisk, Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise, United Healthcare, Coop-Øster Hus, FixIT.no, Joker, Sparebanken Sør, Ringeriks-Kraft, Frøy-Bianchi
An Arctic Tour of Norway fan came prepared for the race in 2014.
U23 champion Bystrøm extends with Katusha
Katusha have extended the contract of U23 world champion Sven Erik Bystrøm for the 2016 season.
Bystrøm was akey part of the Russian sqaud’s Classics team this year, helping Alexander Kristoff win the Tour of Flanders as well as the Three-Days of De Panne-Koksijde. Bystrøm was also part of the group guiding Kristoff to stage wins in the Tour of Qatar, the Tour of Norway and Tour des Fjords. Moreover, Sven Erik won the Best Young Rider Classification in the Circuit Cycliste Sarthe and was 7th in the Norwegian Road Championships.
“It is so fun for me to be in this team and have all of these victories,” Bystrøm said. “I am still learning but it is nice to see that Alexander Kristoff and the team management appreciate my work for the team.
“I can grow a lot in cycling and I am convinced this will happen with this group. Team Katusha is not pushing me – they give me the necessary time to evolve. I am still living a dream. When Team Katusha asked me to extend my agreement, I did not hesitate one second.”
Katusha general manager Viacheslav Ekimov said the team have been impressed with Bystrøm’s potential.
“This year he showed his skills in the ‘Kristoff races,’ but I am convinced he can do more than this,” Ekimov said. “Also in the Ardennes and in smaller stages races he will surprise many people. The way he took last year’s world title in Ponferrada tells us enough. Sven Erik is still young. That’s why we give him the time to grow. We are sure Sven Erik will not disappoint us.”
Sven Erik Bystrøm will be back with Katusha next year.
Tinkoff-Saxo names Tour de Wallonie sqaud
Tinkoff-Saxo have named their seven-rider team for the upcoming Tour de Wallonie, a 2.HC race in the undulating Ardennes country. The riders will target stage wins during this opportunity to get back into race rhythm after a break from competition.
“It’s a race over five days, which suits the puncheurs of the peloton very well,” said team director Lars Michaelsen. “The GC will probably come down to bonus seconds or time taken in a successful breakaway. I expect that we will see gaps and fragmentation in the bunch on several stages, as the terrain is demanding, which means that it’ll be crucial to stay well-positioned throughout the entire race.”
Matti Breschel, Pavel Brutt, Nikolay Trusov, Jay McCarthy, Chris Juul-Jensen, Michael Mørkøv and Juraj Sagan will represent Tinkoff-Saxo in the race.
“I think that the first stage will be very important,” Michaelsen said. “The profile looks like a saw blade and it will be vital to ride the race from the front. Chris Juul has shown strength and he could potentially do very well if he continues in the same manner as previously. Meanwhile we also have fast guys in the likes of Trusov and McCarthy.”
Matti Breschel, who hasn't raced since Tour de Suisse, will look to get back into rhythm at Wallonie.