Despite fierce conception on a technical finish in Mandal, Belgian WorldTour team Deceuninck - Quick-Step continues to make it look easy this season collecting win No.31 as Colombian sprinter Álvaro Hodeg claimed Stage 2 at the Tour of Norway (UCI 2.HC) on Wednesday.
It was the second victory of 2019 for Hodeg, who also took a stage win at Colombia (2.1) in February, after besting a trio of Norwegian Rivals at the line, including Kristoffer Halvorsen (Team Ineos), Edvald Boasson Hagen (Team Dimension Data) and Alexander Kristoff (UAE-Team Emirates).
After completing all but one of the 174km from Kvinesdal, the race featured a mad sprint to the line after making a pair of hard turns inside the final kilometre, including one 90-degree left with less than 700 metres to go.
“We knew the circuit was quite hard, many corners before the finish line,” Hodeg told Eurosport. “We needed to be in good position from the start of the circuit. The team was always in the front. Trying to control the race was quite hard because of the climb in the circuit and also the corners, but we did an incredible job today and in the end we were the fastest.”
Quick-Step currently tops the UCI World Rankings with 15,254.74 points as of May 26. Bora-Hansgrohe is second with 12,984.9 and Astana Pro team third (12,274).
‘It is really nice to have a win,” said Hodeg. “The team gives me confidence, and it is really nice when you can give them also one victory."
The day started with a seven-man break from the gun. The septet extended its lead to four minutes before succumbing to the field on the last lap of the final circuit in Mandal with two riders, Henrik Evensen (Joker Fuel of Norway) and Markus Hoelgaard (Uno-X Norwegian Development Team), the last two to riders caught 1.5km from the line.
Perhaps the most notable performance of the day was that of 19-year-old local Erik Lunder, who joined the Norwegian Continental squad, Team Coop, straight from his Stavanger Cycling Club team literally a month to the day. Lunder was only notified of his start at the Tour of Norway less than 24 hours before the opening stage after a teammate had fallen ill.
“It was a really hard day, the other guys in the break were way more experienced and had way more power than me,” Lunder told Eurosport. “I was good on the flats, but on the climbs it was really hard. I had a really hard time in the last 40km. The car told me to save energy just in case the break went all the way — so I did my best.
“In the end, it was a good day and a cool experience.”