Israel Start-Up Nation took its 14th victory of the season as Ben Hermans secured the overall win in Arctic Race of Norway after a nail-biting finish on the final day.
Starting out the stage with a gap of just four seconds down to the second place, nothing was settled before the riders would cross the finishing line for the final time in Harstad.
Early on the stage, a strong group of riders managed to distance the peloton and that scenario suited the ISN riders perfectly. With a breakaway up the road, the bonus seconds – which could put Hermans’ overall lead in jeopardy – would be taken out of the equation.
The main priority was to keep the overall lead and the team made sure to keep Hermans in a good position throughout the entire the stage.
As the peloton took on the last ascent towards the finishing line, it was certain that the break would make it all the way and take the bonus seconds. Odd Christian Eiking (Intermarché – Wanty), who was second in the GC, attacked on the final part but Hermans dug deep to stay with the other favorites to ultimately seal the overall victory with a margin of just two seconds.
Today’s victory is also the first overall stage race win for Israel Start-Up Nation this season.
Ben Hermans: ”The last 500 meters were very steep and explosive and that’s not really my specialty but I still managed to finish at the front. It was a close call though. I expected that Eiking would attack at the end but I thought I could follow him. However, he went hard and I started to panic a little when he got a small gap. I was nervous after crossing the line until I got the confirmation. I’m really happy for my teammates. They all did such a good job again today. I’m so happy that all their hard work wasn’t for nothing.”
Sports director, Nicki Sørensen: “It went all the way down to the wire today. We knew that the other teams would need to put us under pressure early in the stage if they wanted to move up in the GC and they really tried to do so on the long climb at the beginning. However, our guys were ready and they did very well to close down all the dangerous moves.
“In the end, the breakaway made it and that was really good for us as Eiking had a good day and won the sprint in the group of favorites and took two seconds back on Ben. It was a close one but that also just makes the victory even sweeter.”