Alexey Lutsenko wins 2019 Arctic Race of Norway

Alexey Lutsenko (Astana) snatched overall victory at the Arctic Race of Norway, sprinting to take third on the final stage in Narvik, and finishing one second ahead of race leader Warren Barguil (Arkea Samsic). Lutsenko started the stage three seconds behind the Frenchman but won the four-day stage race by a single second thanks to a better total of bonus seconds secured during the stage.

Local rider Markus Hoelgaard of the Uno-X Norwegian Development Team won the final stage in Narvik with a perfectly timed late attack in the final kilometre. Fellow Norwegian Amund Grøndahl Jansen (Jumbo-Visma) was second.

Lutsenko tried an attack with six kilometres to go on the hilly finishing circuit around Narvik but Barguil and other riders were able to close him down. Instead of trying again, he let Hoelgaard and then Grøndahl go and then fought for the final time bonus.

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Barguil tried to chase after him but was unable to close him down and could only watch overall victory slip from his grasp. Krists Neilands (Israel Cycling Academy) finished third overall at 17 seconds.

“I fought all race for the GC and to win on the last stage is a big surprise,” Lutsenko said before pulling on the bright orange and yellow midnight sun leader’s jersey.

“I want to thank my team for all their work. I tried to win the intermediate time bonus and then again at the finish. In the end I won by just one second in the GC. I’m very happy.

Racing above the Arctic circle

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Ben Hermans wins 2019 Tour of Utah

Ben Hermans (Israel Cycling Academy) relied on a week of solid climbing to win the overall title at the 2019 Larry H Miller Tour of Utah Sunday in Park City, improving on his 2018 runner-up result.

Joe Dombrowski (EF Education First) won the final stage after crossing the finish line alone with 24 seconds to spare ahead of a chase group that included Joao Almeida (Hagens Berman Axeon) in second, Keegan Swirbul (Worthy Pro Cycling) in third, Hermans in fourth and overall runner-up James Piccoli (Elevate-KHS) fifth on the stage.

Hermans finished the seven-day race with the overall victory by 50 seconds over Piccoli (Elevate-KHS), while Dombrowski moved up to third overall with his stage win, 1:32 back.

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“From the first time I did this race in 2014, I had a good feeling with this race,” Hermans said in the post-race press conference. “I keep getting a better result in the GC, so last year I got second and this year I won. I’m really happy with this win, and also really happy with how the team worked for me this week. We were never in trouble, so it was a really good week for us.”

Dombrowski said his team had hoped to put a rider in the early breakaway with the idea that Dombrowski could then bridge to the move and have a teammate there. That point was moot, however, when the field caught the break at the very bottom of the final climb up 12km Empire Pass.

“It’s a different climb in that typically the selection can happen at the bottom because it’s consistently steep, but once you get to the second half of the climb it rolls, and it’s even got some downhills. So if you’re with the group it is more difficult to get away,” Dombrowski said. “So I tried at the bottom and Ben [Hermans] and James [Piccoli] were with me.

How it unfolded

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Laurens De Plus wins 2019 BinckBank Tour

Laurens De Plus (Jumbo-Visma) snatched overall victory at the BinckBank Tour from Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal) after going on the attack in the final circuit of the Muur of Geraardsbergen.

De Plus surged away with Greg Van Avermaet (CCC Team) and Oliver Naesen (AG2R La Mondiale) just before the cobbled Bosberg climb after the Muur had made a first selection. Wellens was isolated and unable to go with the move, with De Plus also sweeping up seven bonus seconds in the late Golden Kilometre sprints.

De Plus started the stage just 12 seconds down on Wellens and then gave his all in the final, hectic pursuit match to the finish, gaining enough time to win the WorldTour stage race.

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Naesen was the strongest on the climb up to the finish on the lower slopes of the Muur, coming past van Avermaet close to the line after his close friend and training partner led out the sprint.

De Plus finished four seconds behind but was 38 seconds ahead of Wellens, who finished in a chase group. That meant De Plus won by 35 seconds, with Naesen also moving up to second place overall. Wellens slipped to a disappointed third place overall at 36 seconds. Van Avermaet moved up to fourth at 37 seconds, with Marc Hirschi (Team Sunweb) slipping to fifth at 44 seconds.

The 23-year-old De Plus has become a valued stage race domestique since turning professional with QuickStep in 2016 and finally took his first professional at the Binckbank Tour. He movingly dedicated his victory to close friend Bjorg Lambrecht who died recently after crashing at the Tour de Pologne.

Like a Flandrian Classic

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Marta Bastianelli wins Postnord Vargarda WestSweden Road Race

Marta Bastianelli (Team Virtu Cycling) won the Postnord Vårgårda WestSweden Road Race. After an active race with lots of attacks, things came down to the sprint of a reduced peloton. The Italian champion came through the final corner in the slipstream of Marianne Vos (CCC-Liv) and came past Vos on the final metres, winning the race with just a few centimetres. Lorena Wiebes (Parkhotel Valkenburg) sprinted to third place.

Vos dived into the last right turn with 300m to race, hoping to repeat her victory of 2018. She had speed and kicked hard but Bastianelli was on her wheel and then came past her at the line to win and quickly begin celebrating. It was her sixth victory of the 2019 season and her first since winning the Italian national title in late July. She is the first Italian rider to ever win the Postnord Vårgårda WestSweden Road Race.

“I am very happy to win this race today,” said Bastianelli in the post-race interview. “I had some injury problems with my knee before the Giro Rosa. Today, it was very important to have team support, especially Barbara Guarischi helped me in the final. I was in the breakaway at the start of the race, and my legs felt a bit weak after that.

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“I know it’s important to get through the last corner in second position. I took Marianne’s wheel, and she did a very long sprint. I followed her and came around for the finish, it was very close, but I won. I am happy to win in my new [Italian] champion’s jersey and happy for the team and my sports director Carmen Small.”

Vos ensured she was perfectly placed going into and out of the fast turn but could not get rid of Bastianelli and then mistakenly took the longest line to the finish. “I was actually quite a good lead out from Ale Cipollini and Virtu,” Vos said. “I think Marta was on my wheel and it was just a little too long and I didn’t have the legs.”

How it happened

The race consisted of one long loop south and east of Vårgårda followed by three shorter laps including the Hägrungabakken hill and three finishing laps that took in a new gravel section ending only three kilometres from the finish in addition to the hill. 28.6 kilometres of the 145.3-kilometre race were on eight gravel sections. Although rain was forecast, it stayed dry throughout the race.

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Trek-Segafredo win Postnord Vargarda WestSweden TTT

Trek-Segafredo has won the Postnord Vårgårda WestSweden TTT on Saturday. Having set the best time every intermediate check, the team including Audrey Cordon-Ragot, Elisa Longo Borghini, Ellen van Dijk, Tayler Wiles, Ruth Winder, and Trixi Worrack finished the TTT in 43:53 minutes, beating Canyon-SRAM by 25 seconds and Team Sunweb by 46 seconds.

“It feels good to get a win as a team,” said Ruth Winder in a TV interview after the race. “Every bike race is a team game, and to stand on the podium together is really, really cool. It was our first time together, but we have such an experienced group of girls. Everybody on the team really knows how to do a team time trial, and we had a lot of trust and confidence in each other and came together as one cohesive unit. We will celebrate a little, but we are already excited for the road race on Sunday, too.”

The TTT was a bit shorter than last year as the Hägrungabakken hill had been cut from the route. Teams were sent out on a 35.6-kilometre course, most of which was an out-and-back course from Vårgårda to Herrljunga where riders turned around with a timing point after 15.7km. Another timing point came on the way back after 27.1km, followed by a technical final through the streets of Vårgårda. The roads were still somewhat wet after a morning rain, and after a tailwind on the first section out to Herrljunga, teams had to contend with a head-crosswind on the way home.

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The first team to start was BTC City Ljubljana with Swedish rider Hanna Nilsson. Having set the first times at each timing point, the Slovenian team’s finishing time of 47:17 minutes was good enough for 12th place out of 14 teams. Originally, 15 teams were scheduled to start, but WNT-Rotor had to withdraw after a crash during their TTT recon on Friday damaged the team’s time trial bikes.

With 19:58 minutes, Valcar Cylance was the first team to clock under 20 minutes at the Herrljunga turning point, but this time was in turn beaten by Team Virtu Cycling and Team Sunweb. Canyon-SRAM set a very good time with 19:10 minutes; only Trek-Segafredo managed to improve on this split time with 19:02 minutes.

At the second timing point, Sunweb stopped the clock after 34:05 minutes, setting a preliminary best time. Canyon-SRAM beat this by 22 seconds, then Trek-Segafredo shaved another 17 seconds off the time.

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