It looked grim for race leader Alexander Kristoff (UAE-Team Emirates) at the tail end of the sixth and final stage. The previous stage winner, who lifted the yellow jersey off rival Edvald Boasson Hagen (Team Dimension Data) on Saturday, had to rally in the closing kilometres to finish third and hold off fellow Norwegian and Stage 6 winner Kristoffer Halvorsen (Team Ineos) for the overall victory at the Tour of Norway.
“We had to take control today and I think it was a little bit of luck that we missed out a few sprint days so we didn’t get the [yellow] jersey before the last stage,” Kristoff explained to Eurosport. “My teammates did incredible work today.
“Normally Rory [Sutherland] is the guy to pull, but he has been really good to just stay with me on the climb,” the three-time Tour de France stage winner continued. “He knows exactly how I am feeling so he can just bring me back over the tops.”
After UAE shut down a six-man break, Kristoff relied on his seasoned, 37-year-old domestique to close a growing gap atop the race’s final climb — a 4.3km category climb peaking 11.5km from the finish of a challenging 174.5km ultimate stage from Gran.
“Today he saved me a lot of time,” he admitted. “Just when I had a small gap at the top of the climb, he closed the hole for me. I thought I was going to win the stage when I came down toward Hønefoss, but we had a young, fast Norwegian also there to overtake me there at the end.
“That was a pity,” concluded Kristoff, who also captured the points jersey. “It would have been a perfect day if I also won the stage, but to win the GC is far more than I expected when I started his race, so I am very happy.”
The 23-year-old Halvorsen started the day in fourth place two seconds adrift of Kristoff, but the win moved him up and over Boasson Hagen and Stage 4 winner Edoardo Affini (Mitchelton-Scott) to close the final general classification just behind the 2017 European champion.
“It was a really amazing feeling, we have been trying all week to get a stage win and today we did it on the last stage,” said the best young rider and race runner up. “The team did a really good job in the final 10 kilometres, I was in the perfect position with 150m to go and I just had to sprint flat out to get the win — it’s a really nice feeling.”