photo credit @ IAM Cycling
Australian Leigh Howard braves brutal conditions and 2017 UCI Road Worlds loop to take stage 1 after confusing finish at Tour des Fjords
After racing the first 119 kilometers in pouring rain, a missing sign inside the closing 23km circuit, which will be used for 2017 UCI world road race championships next year, caused confusion for eight-time stage winner and 2014 race champion Alexander Kristoff (Team Katusha), thus opening the door for 2016 Tour des Fjords (UCI 2.1) opening stage victor Leigh Howard (IAM Cycling) in Bergen, Norway, on Tuesday.
However, the three-time track world champion-turned-roadie was clearly not satisfied with how the race unfolded.
“To be honest, I expected the commissaire to neutralize the race,” said the 26-year-old Australian following his second win of the season. “But he didn’t, and you don’t stop just to stop. We had an advantage and we took it, but it’s strange.”
When asked about his rivals’ displeasure with the result, Howard was empathetic.
“It is understandable there would be some angry riders,” he said. “I’m happy, but it takes away some of the feeling as it’s not the same to win like that.”
A visibly upset Kristoff was one of the peloton’s most vocal following the race.
“We were driving in the front and there were no signs showing us the way, because of that we drive straight forward,” said the 2012 Olympic silver medallist. “I’ve never had an experience like this.
“Normally the peloton would have been neutralized if all were wrong,” continued Kristoff. “I really felt we had 100 percent control and I felt really strong … it’s a bit of a scandal.”
Race director Roy Hegreberg admitted the city has a lot to learn when it comes to hosting an event of this size with the Road Worlds looming.
“We just have to apologize,” said Hegreberg. “This is something that cannot happen, especially when they are testing the route of the world championships. They promised us 200 people to help with traffic control and we were provided just 175, and this cannot happen again.
“But Leigh Howard can hold his head high as he raced hard today and he deserves the win,” he added. “The other guys now have four days to make up for lost time.”
However, Hegreberg did admit he would talk with officials to see if any time gaps caused by course error would be neutralized.
“We want this to be a fair race, and if something goes wrong we do not want the riders to suffer for it,” he said.
With the win, Howard dons the yellow leaders jersey, as well as the blue points jersey with four days remaining in the five-stage European Tour race.
“I’m going to try to defend the yellow jersey,” said Howard. “It’s possible, but it will be very hard to keep it on my shoulders for five days.”
Top 20 Finishers
1 Leigh Howard (Aus) IAM Cycling 3:27:18
2 Jesper Asselman (Ned) Roompot – Oranje Peloton 0:00:03
3 August Jensen (Nor) Team Coop-Øster Hus 0:00:06
4 Damiano Caruso (Ita) BMC Racing Team
5 Jonas Koch (Ger) Verva ActiveJet Pro Cycling Team
6 Andrea Pasqualon (Ita) Team Roth
7 Sjoerd Van Ginneken (Ned) Roompot – Oranje Peloton
8 Bert Van Lerberghe (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen – Baloise
9 Jeroen Meijers (Ned) Rabobank Development Team
10 Truls Korsaeth (Nor) Team Joker Byggtorget
11 Alexander Kamp (Den) Stölting Service Group
12 Adam Phelan (Aus) Drapac Professional Cycling
13 Michael Schaer (Swi) BMC Racing Team
14 Marcel Aregger (Swi) IAM Cycling
15 Rasmus Guldhammer (Den) Stölting Service Group
16 Lorenzo Fortunato (Ita) Tinkoff Team
17 Nikolay Trusov (Rus) Tinkoff Team
18 Martjin Budding (Ned) Rabobank Development Team
19 Benoît Jarrier (Fra) Fortuneo – Vital Concept
20 Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Team Katusha
General classification after stage 1
1 Leigh Howard (Aus) IAM Cycling 3:27:08
2 Jesper Asselman (Ned) Roompot – Oranje Peloton 0:00:07
3 August Jensen (Nor) Team Coop-Øster Hus 0:00:12
4 Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Team Katusha 0:00:13
5 Joseph Rosskopf (USA) BMC Racing Team 0:00:15
6 Damiano Caruso (Ita) BMC Racing Team 0:00:16
7 Jonas Koch (Ger) Verva ActiveJet Pro Cycling Team
8 Andrea Pasqualon (Ita) Team Roth
9 Sjoerd Van Ginneken (Ned) Roompot – Oranje Peloton
10 Bert Van Lerberghe (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen – Baloise
11 Jeroen Meijers (Ned) Rabobank Development Team
12 Truls Korsaeth (Nor) Team Joker Byggtorget
13 Alexander Kamp (Den) Stölting Service Group
14 Adam Phelan (Aus) Drapac Professional Cycling
15 Michael Schaer (Swi) BMC Racing Team
16 Marcel Aregger (Swi) IAM Cycling
17 Rasmus Guldhammer (Den) Stölting Service Group
18 Lorenzo Fortunato (Ita) Tinkoff Team
19 Nikolay Trusov (Rus) Tinkoff Team
20 Martjin Budding (Ned) Rabobank Development Team
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