• The seventh edition of the Arctic Race of Norway gives pride of place to the Lofoten and Vesterålen islands and their splendid landscapes.
• 19 of the riders selected for the 2019 edition of the northernmost race in the world started the Tour de France in Brussels in July.
• The ascent to Storheia Summit (3.5 km at 11.8%), widely known as the Norwegian Mont Ventoux, will set the stage for the decisive battle for the Arctic throne among riders such as Warren Barguil, Alexey Lutsenko, Ilnur Zakarin and Krists Neilands.
This year’s Arctic Race of Norway has a fantastic course in store for the 120-strong peloton that will roll out of Å on 15 August. Pretenders to the crown include Arkéa–Samsic’s Warren Barguil, who took two stage wins in the 2017 Tour de France and finished tenth in the last Grande Boucle weeks after claiming the French road race championships. However, he will face a star-studded field, with rivals such as Astana’s Alexey Lutsenko, a two-time winner of the Tour of Oman determined to make the sun on his Kazakh champion’s jersey shine in the lands of the midnight sun. Ilnur Zakarin, a last-minute addition to Katusha–Alpecin’s roster who finished third in the 2018 Vuelta, has also got a few cards to play, especially on the brutal slopes of Storheia Summit.
There will also be outsiders eager to cause an upset, such as Rein Taaramäe, a regular fixture in the event who won the race outright in 2015 and took the Estonian time trial championships again this year. Israel Cycling Academy’s Krists Neilands, who claimed two stages and the overall in the last Tour de Hongrie, and Rally UHC Cycling’s rising star Brandon McNulty, winner of the 2019 Giro di Sicilia, will be out on the hunt for a new trophy and the opportunity to show their talent as climbers and punchers. Men who shone in 2018 will be looking to repeat their exploit in Narvik this year, with last season’s runner-up Markus Hoelgaard (Uno-X Norwegian Development Team) and third-placed rider Colin Joyce (Rally UHC Cycling) coming back for more.
Who can put the brakes on the Mathieu van der Poel show?
There will be a multitude of stage hunters eager to find true north and thwart the plans of Corendon–Circus’s Mathieu van der Poel, a two-time cyclo-cross world champion and winner of two stages in the 2018 Arctic Race of Norway. Riders such as Astana’s Magnus Cort Nielsen, Total Direct Énergie’s Lilian Calmejane, Loïc Vliegen the winner of the 2019 Tour de Wallonie and Norwegian champion Amund Grøndahl Jansen could fish something in troubled waters.
The Dutchman, who claimed the 2019 Amstel Gold Race in a thrilling sprint, will have to dig deep in the finishing straights to beat rivals of the calibre of Bryan Coquard, with seven victories to his name this season, Christophe Laporte, winner of the 2018 Tro Bro Leon, Jumbo–Visma’s Danny van Poppel, Israel Cycling Academy’s Sondre Enger and reigning two-time Swedish champion Lucas Erikson.
But what if Raymond Poulidor’s grandson had his sights set higher? Following his victory in last weekend’s leg of the Mountain Bike World Cup, the Dutch rider can no longer be ruled out for the top step of the podium of the 2019 Arctic Race of Norway. As everyone knows, the word „impossible“ is not in Van der Poel’s dictionary.