World Champion Triumphant on Gullingen Climb

Photo: Szymon Gruchalski


World Champion Triumphant on Gullingen Climb

Reigning U23 world champion Axel Laurance won the second stage in dominant fashion, taking over the overall lead as well.

The start of the second stage of this year's Tour of Norway took place in beautiful Odda, nestled between fjords and mountains at the innermost part of Sørfjorden in Hardanger. This stage, the longest of the race at 205 kilometers, presented the first real test for the peloton's climbers. The decisive moment came on the challenging final climb to Gullingen, which is 5.8 kilometers long with an average gradient of nearly 9%. Before today's stage, the Belgian prodigy Thibau Nys was in the lead, and there was anticipation to see if the cyclocross specialist could retain his lead after this demanding stage.

Shortly after 30 kilometers, today's breakaway group established itself, consisting of Sean Flynn (Team dsm-firmenich PostNL), Hugo Scala Jr. (Project Echelon), Anton Stensby (Team Coop - Repsol), and Filip Reha (ATT Investments), who managed to join the breakaway for the second day in a row. They quickly built a lead of over three minutes, unlike yesterday when the peloton kept the breakaway under controlled distance.

The stage began at a fast pace, with the leading group maintaining an average speed of almost 45 km/h until the first categorized climb of the stage, Hogganvikbakken. In the breakaway, only Filip Reha from ATT Investments had points in the King of the Mountains competition. Before today's stage, he was second in the battle for the white and blue polka dot jersey, just four points behind the jersey holder Eirik Vang Aas (Norway).

The breakaway reached the top of Hogganvikbakken after 104 kilometers, with Filip Reha (ATT Investments) crossing first, now tied with Vang Aas in the King of the Mountains competition after securing four points. Following closely were Norwegian Anton Stensby (Team Coop – Repsol), Sean Flynn (Team dsm-firmenich PostNL), and Hugo Scala Jr. (Project Echelon), who took 3, 2, and 1 points respectively. The breakaway group still had a good lead over the peloton, maintaining a gap of 3:45 after the 3.5-kilometer climb.

Throughout much of the stage, Lidl-Trek kept the pace high in the peloton for their leader and yesterday's winner, Thibau Nys. With 40 kilometers remaining, Q36.5 Pro Cycling also moved to the front to support their Norwegian captain, Carl Fredrik Hagen. The gap to the breakaway slowly but steadily decreased as they approached the base of the Gullingen climb – a breakaway that now consisted of three riders after the Project Echelon rider had to drop back.

Entering the final climb to the finish at Gullingen, Uno-X Mobility increased the pace, led by Alexander Kristoff. The gap to the breakaway was now under 30 seconds, with Anton Stensby (Team Coop – Repsol) being the last to hold off the peloton before being caught with just over 5 kilometers remaining. For much of the climb, Tudor Pro Cycling set a furious pace for their captain Marco Brenner, causing significant splits in the peloton and leaving many riders struggling with the high speed.

With 3.5 kilometers to go, Thibau Nys had to drop from the front group, and with one kilometer remaining, a group of 10 riders contested the victory. Frenchman Axel Laurance (Alpecin-Deceuninck) proved to be the strongest in the finish, also taking over the overall lead. He won ahead of Ethan Hayter (INEOS Grenadiers) and Bart Lemmen (Visma | Lease a Bike). Yesterday's runner-up, Ådne Holter (Uno-X Mobility), was once again the best Norwegian, finishing in 6th place.