Victor Lafay continued his strong 2021 campaign at the Arctic Race of Norway, finishing third overall and taking home the best young rider jersey after four days of tough racing on a hilly course in the rugged north of the country.
The 25-year-old Frenchman has burst onto the scene this season, taking fourth and the youth classification at the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana before going on to win a stage at the Giro d'Italia.
Now, almost three months on, Lafay has taken his first stage race podium finish with a third place in Norway, secured after the hilly final day to Harstad. The youngster, now in his third full season as a pro, said after the race that his improvement has come as a result of continuing his work with the Cofidis team.
"I think my level raised this year and I can be a regular in the results," he told Cyclingnews. "I'm quite happy to finish third because after three weeks I just started training so I wasn't confident when I arrived here. On top of that, I was sick on the first stage. I wasn't confident but I'm really happy to take this jersey and take third.
"I think it's just regular progression. I do the same things as last year, but I saw in the training that my power is better and better. I think that's why I'm better in the races this year as well.
"Here, the goal of keeping the third place overall is reached. I don’t think it was possible to win. I have no regrets."
Back in May, Lafay won stage 8 of the Giro in Guardia Sanframondi after emerging as the strongest from a nine-man breakaway on the mid-mountain stage. The final climb to the finish there was a punchy, 10-minute effort, he said at the time – similar to the climbs and stages he experienced in Norway.
Lafay told Cyclingnews that he sees himself as more of a puncheur than a climber for the high mountains, something that has been borne out in his results so far.
"I think I'm much punchier than a climber," he said. "This race was perfect for me. I hope I can do it in the next years and try to win it. I wanted to come to Norway for a long time. It’s great for a bike race.
"It’s an incredible trip, especially because we haven’t travelled that much since the beginning of the outbreak. It’s a big pleasure to see another place, particularly those beautiful landscapes up here.
"The dream is to win the World Championships but there is a long way to go," he said, adding that he didn't have any idea about the possibility of making the France squad for this year's World Championships in Flanders.
"I don't know," he said. "I don't even think about it. If I have to go then I'll go."
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