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Sprint victory for Chloe Hosking, overall victory for Annemiek van Vleuten: Ladies’ Tour of Norway Stage 4

Chloe Hosking (Trek Segafredo) won the final stage of the final edition of the Ladies’ Tour of Norway in a tight sprint finish, with Coryn Rivera (Team DSM) taking second and Chiara Consonni (Valcar – Travel & Service) taking third. Annemiek van Vleuten, after her dominant display on the third stage, secured the overall win. 

Nina Buijsman (Parkhotel Valkenburg) won the mountain classification, having dominated the competition throughout the race. Alison Jackson (Liv Racing) won the points classification by a single point, after a close fight with Kristen Faulkner (Team Tibco-Silicon Valley Bank) on the final stage – who, after a crash from Mavi Garcia at the very last moment (Ale BTC Ljubljana), ended up third in the general classification, just behind Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio.

They set off in Drøbak for the 150.4km stage – historically, this was Oslo’s winter harbour when the Oslofjord freezes in the depths of harsh winter – and came down through Ostfold countryside to Halden – home of what is, allegedly, the world’s most humane prison. Annemiek van Vleuten, having swapped her WWT leader’s jersey for yellow, was hoping to preserve her lead of 39 seconds. 

The day started with an attack from Rossella Ratto (Bingoal Casino – Chevalmeire), who was joined by Julie Van De Velde (Team Jumbo Visma). At the first intermediate sprint, at Våler, 30.5 km into the stage, Ratto took maximum points, and Van de Velde came second. Alison Jackson (Liv Racing) came third, pulling herself level in the points competition with the current green jersey Kristen Faulkner (Team Tibco-Silicon Valley Bank) – who sprinted behind her, but was unable to challenge – and Tanja Erath (Team Tibco-Silicon Valley Bank) took fourth. 

By 63km into the stage, Van De Velde and Ratto had managed to stretch their lead all the way out to six minutes. There were two categorized climbs back-to-back: the first came at Vamma at 61.6km, a 1.6km ascent with an average of 4%. Van De Velde was first, with Ratto second; Nina Buijsman (Parkhotel Valkenburg) guaranteed herself the Queen of the Mountains jersey with third, and Anna Christian (Drops-Le Col) picked up fourth. 

As they came to the second categorized climb, the breakaway’s lead began to drop, coming down around four and a half minutes. The ascent at Eidsberg, at 73.7km, was a 3km ascent with an average of 2.8%. Van de Velde and Ratto again took first and second, with Wilma Olausson (Team DSM) third and Lucy Kennedy (Team BikeExchange) in fourth. 

The 19-year old Norwegian, Anne Dorthe Ysland (Team Coop-Hitec Products) attempted to join the break-away, but was absorbed back into the peloton as Team DSM put the pressure on, reducing the gap to two minutes by 40km to go. The teams were perhaps hyper-aware of the possibility of a break making it all the way, given the solo victories on the first and second stages. 

Julie Van de Velde peeled off the front of the break with 30km to go, abandoning Rossella Ratto and going for a solo effort. She initially maintained a gap of a minute on the peloton, but it began to drop rapidly, and she was caught by the peloton before they entered the final circuit. 

The teams jostled for position, the peloton shattering into pieces, as they entered the highly technical circuit with 18.4km to go. Trek-Segafredo came to the front, leading out for Lucinda Brand; Team DSM got into position for Coryn Rivera. At 16.1km to go, they had a second intermediate sprint, and a first time past the finishing line: Kristen Faulkner shot off the front, eager to re-establish her grip on the green jersey, but she was closely followed by Alison Jackson, who pipped her to the line and finally edged ahead in the points competition. Barbara Guarischi (Team Movistar) took third, and Liane Lippert (Team DSM) took fourth. Behind them, a crash disrupted the pace of the peloton, taking down Mavi Garcia  (Ale BTC Ljubjlana), who had started the day third in the general classification. 

Attacks flew as they hit the cobblestone-paved climb on the circuit, with a leading group escaping that contained the yellow jersey Annemiek van Vleuten. The front of the peloton were nipping at their heels, keeping up an aggressive pursuit. As they entered the final lap, the small group was caught, but Garcia was still stuck in a group off the back of the peloton, making a desperate attempt to retain her GC standing. 

The sprint finish, expected but absent for stages one and two, finally materialised. Team DSM came to the front with 5.5km to go, preparing a lead-out for Coryn Rivera, but Trek-Segafredo soon took control. Lucinda Brand lead out Chloe Hosking with a brutal pace for three kilometres. DSM wrestled back control of the front, but it was too late: Hosking stuck to their wheel, then flew to the line ahead of them, coming out of the final bend straight as an arrow.

Speaking to Eurosport, and clearly emotional about the win, Hosking said, “I’m just really proud of myself and I’m so thankful for the team, through the whole process, [who said] there’s no pressure Chloe, just come back when you’re ready. So to finish with a win, in a World Tour stage race, wow. Yeah, I’m just – it was all worth it, I guess.”  Asked about the impact of Covid-19, she said that, “it was more mentally tough – Australia’s really far away, and it’s even further when we can’t really get in, and my family can’t come here. So I felt alone, really alone for a lot of the time.” She was interrupted at this point by her team-mates coming to embrace her and tell her how proud they were. 

She described her tactics at the final corner as, “Screw it, I’m just gonna go and take up all the road and hope no-one can come past me.”

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