2 years ago by Oskar Scarsbrook

Norwegians spearhead team at home race

Human Powered Health heads to the Tour of Norway

Human Powered Health is returning to Scandinavia for the six-stage Tour of Norway with Kristian Aasvold and August Jensen leading a strong attacking lineup through the south of their home country.

The puncheurs join jersey-hunters Ben King and Stephen Bassett, breakaway expert Nate Brown and strongman Nickolas Zukowksy taking on an exciting route that will encourage plenty of attacking racing. 

Eyes will be on the race throughout the week with the likes of defending champion Ethan Hayter (INEOS Grenadiers), climber Jay Vine (Alpecin-Fenix), ex-world champion Mads Pedersen (Trek – Segafredo) and the mercurial Remco Evenepoel (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team), all slated to race. 

Ahead of the start in Bergen, Aasvold and Jensen previewed the tour around the ‘Land of the Midnight Sun’. 

Aasvold holding court at training camp.
A key block

“I’m super-stoked to do such a big race as the Tour of Norway with Human Powered Health,” Aasvold said. “It will for sure be special to come there with such a strong group.” 

In 2021, the 26-year-old’s best performances came at home, where he had nine race days and only finished outside the top ten on three occasions. He is once again targeting these favorable races. 

“I’ve done everything in my power the last month to stay healthy and only focused on training, recovery and nutrition,” the Norwegian says about how to target a specific racing block. “That’s pretty much what I do all year, but when you get close to one of your big season goals, it’s almost like you enter a bubble where everything else just disappears.”

On the other hand, due to COVID and injury, Jensen hasn’t competed in a Norwegian stage race since 2019. “It’s about time to come back and race here,” the man from Bodø says.

Inside knowledge

The pair’s knowledge of Norwegian bike racing and conditions will be invaluable for the rest of the team. 

“It’s a pretty tough edition of the Tour of Norway,” Jensen says about the parcours. “We have the Gaustatoppen which is one of the most famous climbs you can do in Norway with 12 kilometres above 8%.”

This stage doesn’t play into the 30-year-old’s strengths but as he says, the race won’t just come down to this one climb, with plenty of exciting finishes that the team will have to be, “vigilant and prepared for some real racing almost the whole six days.”

The weather forecast is not favorable for the week with rain forecasted every single day. “You never know what you’re going to get. Cold, wet weather will make the race harder than it is on paper,” Jensen says ominously.

Aasvold has similar advice. “First of all, I would tell them to bring some extra clothing,” he says about a region that is well known for its winter-like conditions.

“August and I have a lot of experience when it comes to the different stages. I’ve not done everything we are going to do this year, but I know most of the route, so I will for sure tell the guys what I know about each stage when we have meetings; the critical parts, narrow roads, chances for wind.”


The Norwegian mix

Norway is of course well known for mass-producing champion winter Olympians, but it also has a rich 21st Century cycling history thanks to the likes of Thor Hushovd, Edvald Boasson Hagen and Alexander Kristoff. A new generation of Norwegians with big engines and strong legs has picked up the mantle, with the geography of the country itself being a large reason behind the steady stream of quality riders 

I like to think that training almost every day in such hard conditions makes a strong cyclist,” Aasvold explains. “If you want to make it to the professional levels and live in Norway you for sure have to be really motivated, and that usually helps you in the hardest races.

“I also think that the culture around professional sports is really good in Norway,” Aasvold continues “It’s one thing that we have the world’s best cross country skiers – fair enough when you have snow eight months a year – but we also have Olympic gold medalists in sports like beach volleyball and track and field.”

The ‘Snåsaman’ – the nickname of a former famous Snåsa son which has trickled down to Aasvold – who hails from the center of the country, also commented on the friendly rivalry that his region has with the south. 

“For sure there is a rivalry, the further you go South the better weather you get, so we like to tell them they are a bit weak when it comes to the cold weather,” he ends jovially.

The distance from the south to the north of the country is equivalent to that of New York to Miami and Jensen is one of the only racing Norwegians from North of the country – the other being Team DSM’s Andreas Leknessund – so due to the distance, the rivalry is very much one of jokes and fun in cycling.

Tour of Norway stage-by-stage

5/24 Stage 1 | Bergen – Voss (174km) Uphill finish

There’s no easy start to racing in Norway with two category two KOM points on the way to the final three-kilometer ramp to the Voss finish line. Not quite difficult enough for pure climbers to make a move, puncheur-sprinters like Hayter and Jensen will thrive. 

5/25 Stage 2 | Ulvik – Geilo (124km) Mountainous
Stage 2 has a curious profile as at first glance the 60-km finish plateau makes it look tailor-made for sprinters, but factor in the 28.3km category one climb with its 4.4% average and 22.5% maximum gradient and you have the perfect recipe for an opportunistic rider to strikeout for victory. The stage follows the fjords, so is bound to be spectacular. 

5/26 Stage 3 | Gol – Stavsro/Gaustatoppen (176km) Mountains
The Queen stage of the race will engage the climbers like Vine with Evenepoel no doubt being the favorite to capture victory at the end of the mountain-top finish. The rider in the orange leader’s jersey at Gaustatoppen will have a very good chance of taking it to the end of the race. 

5/27 Stage 4 | Hovden – Kristiansand (232km) Hilly
At 232 kilometers, stage 4 is the longest of the race and has a sting in the tail thanks to the finishing circuit double ascent of the Gimlekollen climb. Kristiansand hosted the Norwegian national championships last year where Aasvold scored bronze.

5/28 Stage 5 | Flekkefjord – Sandnes (182km) Hilly
The final three stages follow a similar pattern with circuit finishes around punchy hills. The stage 5 circuit isn’t as tough as the two it’s sandwiched between, so expect a bunch sprint in Sandnes.

5/29 Stage 6 | Stavanger – Stavanger (149km) Hilly
The Tour of Norway draws to its conclusion at an epic stage around Stavanger. The triple ascent of the 8.2% Grisabakken climb sticks out on the stage profile like the famous Pulpit Rock to which this region is home, and will act as a launchpad for puncheurs who are yet to get a result out of the week.   

The team has tasted victory in Norway before when Colin Joyce sprinted to a stage win at the 2018 Arctic Race of Norway.

Kristian Aasvold
Stephen Bassett
Nate Brown
August Jensen
Ben King
Nickolas Zukowsky

How to watch

All the action from the Tour of Norway can be watched on the Eurosport Player and GCN+ throughout the week. 

Follow day-by-day from the ground coverage coverage on @HumanPwrdHealth, the official Twitter account of the Human Powered Health UCI Women’s WorldTour team and UCI ProTeam.