“At first I was thinking to myself that the crash was going to make my nationals prep a lot less enjoyable,” Stephen Bassett says of the thoughts he had running through his head as, dazed, he was helped up from the tarmac by a home care nurse. “Over the next few hours in the emergency room, it became clear that nats were out of the question, which was a big disappointment for me.”
And the culprit behind this trip to the ER?
“Well… I went for a training ride and got T-boned by a deer,” reads Bassett’s Instagram post from June 16. Accompanying the caption is an image of the American perched between two chairs nursing a broken collarbone, cracked ribs and extensive skin abrasions.
Like most professional cyclists he’s searching for the sun through the clouds and looking forward to that magic plate that so many pros have had fixed to their oft-broken clavicles. Bassett also had a guardian angel throughout his injury in the form of his mother, who was a nurse for 30 years.
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“She took really good care of me at home and made sure I had everything I needed to make a full recovery. She didn’t really leave my side for two weeks until I was mobile again,” he explains.
Eight weeks later and Bassett is back at the head of a race putting in a fantastic performance from the breakaway to score maximum points in the KOM classification on stage 1 of the Arctic Race of Norway, in typically wet and windy northern European conditions.
The American led over all three of the day’s categorized climbs to bank 13 points and the head-turning peacock jersey, buoyed on no doubt by his recovery.
“I’d say my shape is still a few percent off where I was for most of the season, but I’m really happy and keen to be at bike races and that motivation counts for a lot during a hard race.”
The 27-year-old was visibly the strongest climber in the breakaway of five riders and led over both ascents of the category one Korgfjellet climb, as well as the category two Elsfjord hill. The closest challenger to Bassett was Arron Van Poucke (Sport Vlaanderen – Baloise) but in every sprint, the man from Knoxville, Tennessee timed his efforts to perfection to beat the Belgian.
“Managing to take the three sprints today feels like a nice progression,” Bassett adds. “I’m trying to carve out a place for myself in cycling and that place seems to be getting in breakaways, but I’ve definitely found myself frustrated a few times this year when I didn’t capitalize on the opportunities to grab jersey classifications along the way.“
The fetching new peacock jersey design has overtaken the salmon jersey of previous editions, this time however there is no associated prize.
“I am a little sad there is no chance to win 500kg of smoked salmon anymore, so I will do my best to eat that amount at the hotel buffets.”
It has also been a fantastic start for Kristian Aasvold in his home race. The Norwegian took a three second time bonus on the second passage in Mo i Rana to place him fourth on GC.
Tomorrow’s stage features three category two climbs offering an overall total of nine points and will likely finish in a similar dogged fight for the line in the wind and rain of Norway.
Watch all the action throughout the week live on FloBikes, with the stage 2 program starting at 6:25 am CT.
Arctic Race of Norway KOM standings
1 BASSETT Stephen – Human Powered Health 13pts
2 VAN POUCKE Aaron – Sport Vlaanderen – Baloise 8
3 MATÉ Luis Ángel – Euskatel – Euskadi 2
4 CULVERWELL Sam – Trinity Racing 1
Arctic Race of Norway GC after stage one
1 ZINGLE Axel – Cofidis 10” 4:49:59
2 BURGAUDEAU Mathieu – TotalEnergies 7” 0:04
3 SYRITSA Gleb – Astana Qazaqstan Team 6” 0:05
4 AASVOLD Kristian – Human Powered Health 3” 0:08
5 BAX Sjoerd – Alpecin-Deceuninck 2” 0:09
6 CAPIOT Amaury – Team Arkéa Samsic 0:11
7 SCHULTZ Nick – Team BikeExchange – Jayco ”
8 BALLERSTEDT Maurice – Alpecin-Deceuninck ”
9 AALRUST Håkon – Team Coop ”
10 ANGULO Antonio – Euskatel – Euskadi ”