When he crossed the finish line at Lago Laceno and claimed the pink jersey of Giro d’Italia race leader, Andreas Leknessund (DSM) said he had had no idea he was making a small but significant piece of cycling history.
But after the Norwegian found out he was the first rider from north of the Arctic Circle ever to take the lead of the Italian Grand Tour in its 106 editions, he said he was not, in any case, surprised. “The number of cyclists from inside the Circle is very small,” he pointed out.
Even so, being born and raised in the small town of Tromso, Leknessund explained he was fortunate to grow up there as a racer. His local club is very active, and the bike riders from Tromso have got their own ways of getting around the long, dark winters and heavy snowfalls, too.
“We have special winter bikes” Leknessund explained, “that we can use to go out and ride in the snow around the reindeer. Growing up and riding there is a big part of my identity, I moved away when I was 16, but I always go back to winter to ride there, it’s something I really enjoy.”
But it’s not just in the Giro d’Italia where Norwegian cycling is breaking some important glass ceilings, Leknessund agreed, as this summer Uno-X Pro Cycling will become the first ever team from the country to take part in the Tour de France.
“Cycling there is going in a good direction,” the 23-year-old recognised, “there’s a lot of talent coming through right now.”
A former under-23 European Time Trial Champion and with two national TT titles to his name, Leknessund’s previous biggest win was a stage in the Tour de Suisse last year. That win was also claimed from a breakaway, as chance would have it also formed, by seven riders, just like the move which ultimately saw the DSM racer take pink in stage 4 of the 2023 Giro d’Italia.
In Italy, Leknessund managed to shed all of the rest of the move on the final ascent, the Colle Molella, prior to stage winner Aurelien Paret-Peintre (AG2R Citroen) regaining contact and taking the stage victory.
The duo’s gap of just under two minutes, though, together with a time bonus he picked up late on the stage and thanks to his second place at the finish was enough to put Leknessund, twentieth in the opening time trial, into pink by 28 seconds on former race leader Remco Evenepoel (Soudal-QuickStep).
Given Evenepoel had let it be known that his team would not oppose a breakaway going for pink ever since the Belgian took the lead last Saturday, a ferocious two-hour battle ensued…
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