Van der Poel makes flying start to Arctic Race of Norway
Mathieu van der Poel reigned supreme once again as the Dutchman claimed a dramatic Stage 1 win at the Arctic Race of Norway on Thursday.
After day one of the four-stage event - the northern-most race in professional cycling - Van der Poel wears the 'Midnight Sun Jersey' - but he has played down suggestions he is ready to remain top of the general classification come the final Skistua climb on Sunday.
After claiming his sixth win on the road this year in three hours and 45 minutes, he said: "It was a very hard race, and the pace never really dropped.
"When I looked at my screen after three hours, the average pace was still 50km so it was full gas all day. I kind of like it like that.
" At the end, I had to gamble and it was a difficult situation, but with seven or eight kilometres towards the end I already had in my mind the sprint. "
"I was just waiting and trying to time my sprint perfectly, and I think I did that. It's going to be very hard to defend the jersey but we'll see."
Steve Cummings (Team Dimension Data) - poetry in motion on a bike - produced a spectacular ride to stretch his lead to 11 seconds with 2km remaining.
In the autumn of his career at 38, Cummings took another furtive glance and stamped on the pedals with a kilometre to go - but he was ultimately caught by the bunch.
A man of the edge as the bunch closed slowly but surely, Cummings gave way as Van der Poel - who won two stages last year - began his assault.
The Corendon-Circus rider replicated the opening stage win of last year, violently accelerating to top speed and holding off his rivals.
The reigning European Mountain Bike champion's last road race was back in late April - the Amstel Gold Race - but he was too fast for Danny van Poppel (Jumbo–Visma) and Andrea Pasqualon (Wanty-Groupe Gobert) in second and third respectively.
Van der Poel is a once in a generation rider, reaching an average of 48km/hour in a show of remarkably aggressive riding.
After Stage 1, Van der Poel leads the general classification by three seconds ahead of Astana's Alexey Lutsenko, with Van Poppel four seconds further back in third.
There is likely to be a bunch sprint to conclude Stage 2 on Friday, a 164km route to Svolvaer which winds up the north-eastern reach of the Lofoten archipelago.