Arctic Race of Norway: Williams wins stage 3, takes over lead

Stephen Williams climbed to victory in stage 3 of the Arctic Race of Norway on Saturday.  Facing a block headwind, the Israel-Premier Tech rider slogged his way to the win ahead of Clément Champoussin (Arkéa-Samsic) and Cristian Scaroni (Astana Qazaqstan) who finished second and third respectively. 

After a hard day of racing in cold, rainy and blustery conditions, Dylan Teuns (Israel-Premier Tech) started the drawn-out sprint with 500 metres to go in the category 1 Havøysund climb but was soon overtaken by Williams on his left, and then Champoussin, Scaroni and Tobias Halland Johannsessen (Uno-X).  Teuns held on for fifth place.

Williams also takes over the general classification, with a slim one-second lead over Scaroni and nine seconds on Johannsessen who finished fourth on the stage.  Leader into the stage, Noah Hobbs (Equipe continental Groupama-FDJ) struggled on the climbs and dropped to 38th place overall, 3:49 in arrears.

"I’m really happy to get win today and repay all my teammates for their excellent work today. It’s also my first victory for this team. I was confident coming into the final climb and was given the responsibility today. It was a bit of a stalemate towards the end because of the headwind. Still, I was able to throw my hands in the air after coming past with a good final kick." Williams said.

"Today’s weather conditions were very demanding. The last hour and a half, in particular, was freezing with all those descents. There is just one more day to go and I will do everything we can to defend and keep this Midnight Sun jersey."

Gusty winds, rain and temperatures hovering around nine degrees added extra challenges to stage 3.  The 167km route, from Hammerfest to Havøysund, featured the climbs of Skaidi (1.9k at 4.9%), Kirkedalen (4.1km at 5.2%), Selvika (2.6km at 54%) and the final ascent of Havøysund (2.2km at 10%).

Six riders escaped early to fight for the King of Mountain points and the bonus seconds available on the stage. Escapees Paul Double (Human Powered Health), Michel Ries (Arkea-Samsic), Vincent van Hemelen (Flanders-Baloise), Ulrik Tvedt (Norway) and Coop-Pepsol teammates Karsten Feldmann and Anton Stensby managed to get a maximum gap of five minutes with 71 kilometres to go.

The smallest rider Double was the first to falter, then Feldmann fell off the pace, while Van Hemelen did the majority of the pace-making on the hunt for more KOM points. 

The peloton, mostly led by the Uno-X team, shattered and re-formed under the force of the blustery winds forcing riders off the back. 

With the gap at 10 seconds, Van Hemelen took off solo and continued to push the pace, going all in until he was caught at the bottom of the final climb.  The Belgian did snag enough points to win the final climber’s classification if he finishes stage 4 tomorrow.

The UNO-X and Israel-Premier Tech riders took over the front of the reduced field in the final uphill kilometres to the finish line.

Tomorrow's final stage runs 171km from Kvalsund to Nordkapp and two climbs in the final 25km will decide the overall race, and with first and 15th overall separated only by 31 seconds, it's set to be a fitting finale. 


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Lyne Lamoureux

Lyne has been involved in professional cycling for more than 15 years in both news reporting and sports marketing. She founded Podium Insight in 2008, quickly becoming a trusted source for news of the North American professional cycling world. She was the first to successfully use social media to consistently provide timely and live race updates for all fans. She is proud to have covered men's and women's news equally during her tenure at the helm of the site. Her writing has appeared on Cyclingnews and other news sites. 

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