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Professional bike racing in Europe returned in secret

Joe Robinson
21 May 2020

Norway hosted a 4.1km uphill time-trial that was even broadcast live on television

It turns out that on Wednesday, Norway secretly hosted the first professional cycling race in Europe since the coronavirus pandemic forced a widespread lockdown in mid-March.

Professional riders from across Norway - including Team NTT's Edvald Boasson Hagen - competed in Stage 1 of the three-day Klatrekongen Fuel of Norway race.

Thes stage consisted of a quick 4.1km uphill time-trial on the climb of Krokkleiva, just north of Oslo, and was even broadcast live of Norweigian television.

The hill climb, with its average gradient of 7.1%, was won by Andreas Leknessund of the Uno-X Development Team in a time of 10 minutes 12 seconds, a full 21 seconds faster than Jumbo-Visma rider Tobias Voss.

Three-time Tour de France stage winner Boasson Hagen ran in sixth, 43 seconds adrift, in his first competitive outdoor race since Le Samyn on 3rd March.

Jumbo-Visma team manager Richard Plugge tweeted coverage of the race with the caption: 'Finally, live racing on the tv in Norway!'

 

It turns out that Team Ineos directeur sportif Gabriel Rasch and Tour of Norway director Birger Hungerholdt had got together to organise this race in secret, with the race absent from the UCI's European racing calendar.

With an air of the early days of time-trialling in the UK, the clandestine nature of the race took place under strict coronavirus measures that looked to ensure no roadside crowds attended.

Additionally, being an individual time-trial, organisers were able to ensure riders rode alone.

Organiser Hungerholdt explained: 'The reason we keep it secret is where we want to be, because we don't want to have a lot of people here in the situation we are in. We, therefore, try to keep it "closed" so that we can do this in a proper and safe manner.'

Norway has begun the slow process of lifting its coronavirus lockdown measures which were first implemented on 12th March. For example, most schools have reopened while there are plans to further lift restrictions from the beginning of June.