Tobias Halland Johannessen (Norway) held on in the final mountain stage of the Tour de l’Avenir to secure overall victory by just seven seconds ahead of Carlos Rodriguez (Spain).
The 21-year-old, who rides for Uno-X, enjoyed a GC lead of 2:18 going into the 151.6-kilometre final mountain stage, which took in the Col d’Iseran before finishing atop the Col du Petit Saint-Bernard.
But Rodriguez, who rides for Ineos Grenadiers and who placed second to Johannessen on the previous stage, made a bid for glory 70 kilometres out on the top of the Iseran, gaining over two minutes and putting Johannessen’s lead in serious danger.
The Norwegian could look to his twin brother Anders for help on the lower slopes of the final climb, but could do little against Rodriguez, who was 1:30 up the road when Anders finished his pacemaking at 17 kilometres to go of the 23.5-kilometre climb.
At 10 to go, 20-year-old Rodriguez was two minutes up on Johannessen and the four men glued to his wheel – Filippo Zana (Italy), Georg Steinhauser (Germany), Gijs Leemreize (Netherlands), and Hugo Toumire (France) – and he had extended that gap to 2:10 Zana and Steinhauser attacked three kilometres from the top.
Johannessen was forced to ride the final kilometres in a solo pursuit with the time gap swinging between 2:10 and 2:15 and his margin just seconds away from a last-gasp overall defeat. A final push to the line saved his race, though, with the Norwegian coming in 2:11 down to take victory by the slimmest of margins.
“I can’t believe it. I was so tired in the last climb. It was so important that my brother could catch up and do some work in the end. I’ve never been this tired before,” Johannessen said after the stage.
“I’m so happy that it went my way in the last kilometres. I decided to go just all I can and hope that it will hold and in the end it did and I’m so happy.
“It’s so close. He was so strong, so I just had to go my own pace the whole climb. I’m so happy that it went my way in the end.
“I didn’t win anything today. It was the help of my team yesterday and today. Without my brother I wouldn’t be there, so it’s definitely a team victory this. I couldn’t be more happy. My coach and Stieg the directeur sportif here, they have done an amazing job, so I’m really thankful for the job they’ve made for us to come here and race.
“He was definitely the strongest today over the Iseran. He was so strong. I was all the time ‘he’s going to make it, I can make it, he’s going to make it’… I’m so happy that it went my way in the end.”
Johannessen and his Norway team were indisputably the strongest squad of the race, with Søren Wærenskjold taking the prologue and the first sprint stage, Anders Johannessen leading Tobias home in a one-two on the hilly stage 6, and Tobias dominating the summit finish of the Grand Colombier to win by over a minute, also winning the mountainous stage 8 to Saint Jean d’Arves.
Norway captured the team prize as well as the yellow jersey, while Dutchman Marijn van den Berg took home the points jersey. The finale ensured it was a successful race for Spain, who lost overall favourite and U23 Giro champion Juan Ayuso to a crash on stage 4 and only had three riders left to contest the final stage.
As well as the final stage glory and second overall ahead of Zana, Rodriguez also won the polka dot jersey as winner of the mountain classification.
After the stage Rodriguez, who this year has finished fourth in the Vuelta a Andalucía and third in the Spanish TT Championships, said that he was happy to have won despite his incredibly narrow margin of defeat in the overall standings.
“I have no words for how I felt today. The team was superb, amazing and did a fantastic job. We had bad luck with three riders out but anyway we did our best and I was able to go solo from the top of the Iseran,” he said.
“I went all in trying to win the general classification. I tried to give my best, but I don’t know if I make it. I think I came close, but anyway I’m very happy with the second position and to have had some good legs during the stage.
“I knew that as the stages went through, I was going to feel a little bit better. Today it was the queen stage, longer with more metres of climbing, I knew that I could make a bigger difference if I made it, so I tried to win but I have won the stage so I’m very happy.
“Being [seven] seconds only from Tobias it’s a pity not to have done a corner a little bit better or in another stage to have placed myself a little bit better. But anyway, I’m very happy. Tobias has been very strong, and he also deserved to have won the Tour.”
|Pos.||Rider Name (Country)||Result|
|1||Carlos Rodriguez (Spain)||4:22:40|
|2||Georg Steinhauser (Germany)||0:01:52|
|3||Filippo Zana (Italy)|
|4||Tobias Halland Johannessen (Norway)||0:02:11|
|5||Gijs Leemreize (Netherlands)||0:02:38|
|6||Hugo Toumire (France)||0:02:56|
|7||Marco Frigo (Italy)||0:05:07|
|8||Martin Messner (Austria)||0:05:19|
|9||Martin Lopez (Ecuador)||0:05:40|
|10||Igor Arrieta (Spain||0:08:13|
|Pos.||Rider Name (Country)||Result|
|1||Tobias Halland Johannessen (Norway)||28:11:19|
|2||Carlos Rodriguez (Spain)||0:00:07|
|3||Filippo Zana (Italy)||0:02:05|
|4||Gijs Leemreize (Netherlands)||0:02:54|
|5||Hugo Toumire (France)||0:12:02|
|6||Martin Messner (Austria)||0:12:40|
|7||Anders Halland Johannessen (Norway)||0:13:38|
|8||Jacob Hindsgaul Madsen (Denmark)||0:15:33|
|9||Daan Hoole (Netherlands)||0:16:25|
|10||Joris Delbove (France / Bourgogne-Franche Comte)||0:16:53|