Daily Diary: Brad Evans talks Tour des Fjords – Stage 2

By Aaron S Lee

Norwegian Alexander Kristoff wins stage, Australian Leigh Howard maintains yellow and NZ Bike talks with New Zealander Brad Evans.

ODDA, Norway—A day after confusion at the start of the closing city circuit potentially cost Alexander Kristoff (Team Katusha) and opening stage victory on home soil, the 29-year-old Norwegian vented his frustration by winning stage 2 at Tour des Fjords (UCI 2.1) over yesterday’s winner and current race leader Leigh Howard (IAM Cycling).

Prior to the start in Stord, 2012 Olympic bronze medallist told NZ Bike he felt strong entering the race but was concerned about the final climb of the 205km course from Stord to Odda.

“I was dropped a bit,” he admitted. “But I had one German rider on my team and he really did a great job, [Nils Politt] pulled the whole climb, on the downhill and in the sprint. Without him, I don’t think I would not have stood a chance.”

“When it all came back together I was good,” said Kristoff. “In the climb I was doing my speed but not enough to follow the best. It was good they did not have more than 30 seconds and we managed to come back.”

On Wednesday, three riders, including Howard benefited from the peloton – led by Kristoff and his Katusha teammates – being misled down the wrong route in a tunnel, which preceded what is set to be the highlight of the UCI world road race championships in Bergen next year.

Upon further review, the UCI commisaires made the decision to neutralise the stage 1 finish, giving all riders the same time apart from bonus seconds earned.

“Shouldn’t that decision be done during the race?” questioned Kristoff. “We still dropped half the pack and they also got the same time, so in the end it’s not fair for anyone.
“It’s a difficult decision,” he continued. “Also the three guys on podium were going another way than the rest of the pack, so it’s also wrong to give them a better time than the rest. In the end, I think it’s an OK decision. Everybody got neutralised, so we are starting from scratch today.”

With the result, the 2014 race winner pads his all-time stage win record (9) and pulls to within two seconds of the 26-year-old Australian, who maintains both the yellow leaders jersey and blue points jersey.

Evans’ diary entry: Stage 2 – Stord to Odda, 205km
The Bømlafjord Tunnel was a very interesting experience, and not one that many cyclists have ever encountered. In fact, it was quite bizarre.

Imagine an 8km (7.8) tunnel, 4km down and 4km back up. In fact, the descent has a 9 percent gradient, and rumour has it that due to new engineering codes, the tunnel would not be allowed such a steep pitch angled toward the bottom – nearly 300m (263m) below sea level.

Some riders were properly scared, due to claustrophobia, darkness and the swirling winds that created a vortex-like effect. We went flying down at 80km/h and then it was a very solid climb out. Couldn't see much at all and had to stay very focused on wheel in front.

Weather wasn't too bad today. We started and finished in the dry along with 120km in the wet. I didn’t suffer too terribly and can cope OK with less than ideal conditions.

We had Will Clarke (AUS) in the break but race leader Leigh Howard’s (AUS) IAM Cycling team was chasing hard to bring it back. The final climb was a bit much for me. I did my best to position Adam Phelan (AUS) prior to it and I think he was top 10 in the end.

We have another tough day tomorrow with even more climbing, and will aim to get through safe and sound, support my teammates up for a result.

Until next time, stay tuned…
Brad Evans

Stage 2 Classification
1. Alexander Kristoff, NOR, Team Katusha, 4:46:57
2. Leigh Howard, AUS, IAM Cycling, s.t.
3. Nikolay Trusov, RUS, Tinkoff, s.t.

General Classification
1. Leigh Howard, AUS, IAM Cycling, 8:13:57
2. Alexander Kristoff, NOR, Team Katusha, 0:02
3. Jesper Asselman, NED, Roompot-Oranje Peloton, 0:12

Classification Winners
Race Leader (Uno X Yellow Jersey): Leigh Howard, AUS, IAM Cycling
Points Leader (Coop Blue Jersey): Leigh Howard, AUS, IAM Cycling
Mountains leader (Santader Polkadot Jersey): Carl Fredrik Hagen, NOR, Team Sparebanken Sør
Best Young Rider (Repsol White Jersey): August Jensen, NOR, Team Coop-ØsterHus
Most Active Rider (Salmon Jersey): Jonas Gregaard Wilsly, DEN, Riwal Platform CT
Teams classification: Roompot-Oranje Peloton, 24:42:45

Aaron S. Lee is a cycling and triathlon columnist for Eurosport and a guest contributor to NZ Bike Magazine. Image Credit Mario Stiehl.
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