Stephen Williams climbed to victory in stage 3 of the Arctic Race of Norway on Saturday. Facing a block headwind, the Israel-Premier Tech rider slogged his way to the win ahead of Clément Champoussin (Arkéa-Samsic) and Cristian Scaroni (Astana Qazaqstan) who finished second and third respectively.
After a hard day of racing in cold, rainy and blustery conditions, Dylan Teuns (Israel-Premier Tech) started the drawn-out sprint with 500 metres to go in the category 1 Havøysund climb but was soon passed by Williams on the left. Teuns held on for fifth place.
Williams also takes over the general classification, with a slim one second lead over Scaroni and nine seconds on Tobias Halland Johannsessen (Uno-X), who finished fourth on the stage. Leader into the stage, Noah Hobbs (Equipe continental Groupama-FDJ) struggled on the climbs and dropped to 38th place overall, 3:49 in arrears.
Gusty winds, rain and temperatures hovering around nine degrees added extra challenges to stage 3. The 167km route, from Hammerfest to Havøysund, featured the climbs of Skaidi (1.9k at 4.9%), Kirkedalen (4.1km at 5.2%), Selvika (2.6km at 54%) and the final ascent of Havøysund (2.2km at 10%).
Six riders escaped early to fight for the King of Mountain points and the bonus seconds available on the stage. Escapees Paul Double (Human Powered Health), Michel Ries (Arkea-Samsic), Vincent van Hemelen (Flanders-Baloise), Ulrik Tvedt (Norway) and Coop-Pepsol teammates Karsten Feldmann and Anton Stensby managed to get a maximum gap of five minutes with 71 kilometres to go.
The smallest rider Double was the first one to falter, and then Feldmann fell off the pace, while Van Hemelen did the majority of the pace-making on the hunt for KOM points.
The peloton, mostly led by the Uno-X team, shattered and re-formed under the force of the blustery winds forcing riders off the back.
With the gap at 10 seconds, Van Hemelen took off solo and continued to push the pace, going all in until he was caught at the bottom of the final climb. The Belgian did snag enough points to win the final climber’s classification if he finishes stage 4 tomorrow.
The UNO-X and Israel-Premier Tech riders took over the front of the reduced field in the final uphill kilometres to the finish line.
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