Daily Diary: Brad Evans talks Tour des Fjords – Stage 4

By Aaron S Lee

Asbjørn Kragh Andersen wins stage, Carl Fredrik Hagen wraps mountains jersey and Brad Evans rides again and gives NZ Bike the scoop.

SANDNES, Norway—After three days of constant rain, Mother Nature finally cooperated with the remaining 117 riders with mild temperatures and sunny skies covering the majority of the 163km route from Stavanger to Sandnes in the fourth edition of Tour des Fjords (UCI 2.1) in Norway on Saturday, September 3.

Hometown hero and 2014 race winner Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) was a clear favourite to claim his third straight stage and pad is all-time race record, which currently sits at 10 wins. However, someone forgot to tell Asbjørn Kragh Andersen (Delko Marseille-KTM) of Denmark.
The 24-year-old Dane chased down the remnants of a five-man break before leaving them behind after being joined by Norwegian Bjørn Tore Hoem (Joker-Byggtorget) and German Christian Mager (Stölting Service Group), who finished second and third respectively, with 2km to go. The win marks Andersen’s first pro win of the season – second of his career – after he was forced to take time off due to knee issues.

“I stopped racing four months ago due to problems with my knees, so I am really happy with the win,” Andersen told NZ Bike after winning the same exact stage as his younger brother Søren Kragh Andersen (Giant-Alpecin) last year. “It’s amazing really nice and my brother win here last year, so it makes it more special.”

While Kristoff battled back to within seconds of the trio, he could only manage fourth place tied with Mager on time.

The highlight of the day came from fellow Norwegian Carl Fredrik Hagen (Sparebanken Sør), who was one of the originators of the initial break that had at one point extended its lead to more than 10 minutes.

With the gap almost closed, Hagen launched a solo attack on the second of three climbs up Bakken hill with a max gradient of 25 percent.

“My strategy all week has been to try to be the break every day, get some points and show a good result in the final, but today it was very, very close,” said the former cross country skier and runner who turned to mountain biking four years ago at age 21 before switching to cycling. “We were five guys, and I saw the peloton was coming closer and closer, so my tactic was to get away with maybe two or three of the strongest guys in the break and then speed up and maybe get a top 3 result.”

The 24-year-old has already wrapped up the mountains classification, which makes it his second of the season after claiming the polka dot jersey at Le Tour de Bretagne (2.2) in May.
“This is just my second year on the road,” Hagen told NZ Bike. “It’s always nice to have a jersey and this is now my second, so 2016 is a good year.”

There is no change on general classification (GC), with Kristoff maintaining a 20-second lead on Michael Schar (BMC Racing) of Switzerland and best young rider classification leader Nick van der Lijke, (Roompot-Oranje Peloton) of Holland.

“I wanted to win here in Sandes, but it was tough at the end,” said Kristoff. “Now the main priority is the yellow jersey. There are still a lot of things that can happen and bonus seconds that can get away, but I feel like we have control of the situation.”

For New Zealand’s Brad Evans (Drapac Pro Cycling), it was another day supporting teammate and general classification contender Adam Phelan (AUS). But would the previous two days spent grinding it out in brutal conditions on mountain stages take its toll on the reigning Tour of Southland champion and Tour de Korea (2.1) stage winner? Well, NZ Bike caught up with the 24-year-old post race to find out…

Evans’ diary entry: Stage 4 – Stavanger to Sandnes, 163km
Nearly got through the day without rain, but overall, one hour out of a four-hour stage race isn't too bad compared to every other day this week.

Today, I definitely felt the effects of the previous stage, but so did everyone else. It was a stressful stage – no rest with a lot of work positioning all day as it was windy and had plenty of small bumps and winding roads.

I did well to stay up front of the bunch for the entire race and did some good work positioning my teammate Adam Phelan before the finish climb – a 1km hill we had to ascend three times with a max gradient of more than 25 percent.

I got distanced the second last time up the steep climb and couldn't quite make it back on despite coming close.

We had Brenton Jones down in a crash with 20km to go, but he is fine and finished. Tomorrow is the last day, and it will be good to finish a solid tour with a nice result.
Katusha are riding really well and Alexander Kristoff is going pretty incredible, so I'd say they would control again to set him up for the final win.

Until next time, stay tuned…
Brad Evans

Stage 4 Classification
1. Asbjørn Kragh Andersen, SUI, Delko Marseille-KTM, 4:00:14
2. Bjørn Tore Hoem, NOR Team Joker-Byggtorget, s.t.
3. Christian Mager, GER, Stölting Service Group, 0:03
General Classification
1. Alexander Kristoff, NOR, Team Katusha, 17:53:04
2. Michael Schar, SUI, BMC Racing Team, 0:20
3. Nick van der Lijke, NED, Roompot-Oranje Peloton, s.t.
Classification Winners
Race Leader (Uno X Yellow Jersey): Alexander Kristoff, NOR, Team Katusha
Points Leader (Coop Blue Jersey): Alexander Kristoff, NOR, Team Katusha
Mountains leader (Santader Polkadot Jersey): Carl Fredrik Hagen, NOR, Team Sparebanken Sør
Best Young Rider (Repsol White Jersey): Nick van der Lijke, NED, Roompot-Oranje Peloton
Most Active Rider (Salmon Jersey): Hampus Anderberg, SWE, ColoQuick-Cult
Teams classification: BMC Racing, 53:41:20

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

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