Image credit: A.S.O.

Key points:

The 8th edition of the Arctic Race of Norway will be held on 6–9 August 2020.

For the first time, the world’s northernmost race will venture outside Norway, with the finish to stage two taking place in the town of Kilpisjärvi in Finland.

The first two days will offer the sprinters the opportunity to show their prowess. The general classification will then be decided over the course of the weekend stages, with a summit finish in Målselv on Saturday and a climb to the line in Harstad on Sunday.

Every year, the Arctic Race of Norway delights cycling fans by delivering unpredictable racing that often maintains the suspense until the dying moments. Last year, the general classification was still up for grabs as the first riders crossed the finish line on the final stage. Ultimately, Kazakh rider Alexey Lutsenko (Team Astana) won the seventh edition of the Arctic Race by a second, ahead of French national champion Warren Barguil (Team Arkéa-Samsic). Elsewhere, Dutch puncheur-sprinter Mathieu Van Der Poel (Corendon-Circus), riding in preparation for the World Championships in Yorkshire, won his third stage in two years. Should he choose to return next year, the Dutchman is sure to find the 2020 route through the region of Troms to his liking once more.

For the first time in its eight editions, the Arctic Race of Norway will start in Tromsø, Northern Norway’s most iconic city and the finishing point for the 2014 and 2017 editions. The first stage, on Thursday 6 August, will take the riders southwards to complete a loop before leading back to the city. Before reaching the final circuit, the peloton will pass Ishavskatedralen (the Arctic Cathedral) before crossing from mainland to island via the Tromsø Bridge. The riders will then perform two laps of an 8.5 km circuit. A categorised climb (1.2 km at 8%) with 2.5 km to go will stretch the peloton out before it reaches the finish line, where the victorious rider will write his name into the history books alongside those of Alexander Kristoff and Dylan Teuns, the two previous winners in Tromsø.

On the second day of racing, the Arctic Race will visit Nordkjosbotn for the first time. On a day of firsts, the riders will then make the Arctic Race’s inaugural foray outside Norway, with the last 12 km taking place in Finland. Earlier in the stage, the riders will skirt the Storfjord before entering a valley that steadily climbs to 500 m of altitude at Kilpisjärvi. Despite four categorised climbs, this 172 km stage should be one for the sprinters.

The third day will have an air of déjà vu about it. Running from Finnsnes to Målselv, the 184.5 km route scheduled for stage three is almost identical to the one undertaken on 15 August 2015, during the third edition of the race. The only difference is that the peloton will ride the first loop on the island of Senja in the opposite direction to four years ago, when Belgium’s Ben Hermans emerged victorious. In 2020, this queen stage will offer five opportunities for the riders to collect climbing points, including the final ascent to a summit finish at the ski resort of Målselv (3.7 km at 7.8%). The battle for general classification places should play out on the climbs leading to the “Alpine Village”.

While the public may see the final stage of the Tour de France as nothing more than a stroll in the park for its participants, the same cannot be said for the Arctic Race. The fourth stage, 161 km of racing between Gratangen and Harstad, is tailor-made for the puncheurs. Gratangen will welcome the race for the first time. Taking place against a stunning backdrop of fjords, the first part of the final stage will see the riders scale three categorised climbs. The race will then conclude with an 8.5 km circuit in Harstad, which was also the setting for the climax to the very first edition of the race, won by local favourite Thor Hushovd. Fellow countryman Alexander Kristoff would also go on to win the first stage there in 2015. The 2020 winner will have to successfully negotiate two climbs up the hill of Novkollen (1.4 km at 6%), before proving his strength on a final ramp to the finish line (700 m at 8.5%).

Route of the 2020 Arctic Race of Norway:

Thursday 6th August, stage 1: Tromsø – Tromsø, 166km

Friday 7th August, stage 2: Nordkjosbotn – Storfjord / Kilpisjärvi, 172km

Saturday 8th August, stage 3: Finnsnes – Målselv, 184,5km

Sunday 9th August, stage 4: Gratangen – Harstad, 161km

In 2020, the Arctic Heroes of Tomorrow Race junior competition will again give 120 talented young riders from Norway and another five countries the opportunity to race on the same course as the pro cyclists. Backed by Equinor, the major sponsor of the ARN, as well as the Norwegian Cycling Federation, it has grown to become one of the major fixtures on the junior calendar. Kristoffer Halvorsen, the winner of the first edition of the Arctic Heroes of Tomorrow Race, held in Harstad in 2013, became U23 world champion in 2016 and went on to join Ineos two years later.

Thor Hushovd, world champion and event ambassador: “The eighth edition of the Arctic Race of Norway will again be a spectacular race that goes down to the wire. I am delighted to go back to Harstad, where I won the general classification in the inaugural edition. The 2020 edition also has new things in store, including a stage finish in Kilpisjärvi, Finland. Both this stage and the previous one in Tromsø are tailored to sprinters, but punchy climbers will take centre stage from then on. If one thing is certain, it is that our landscapes will again leave riders and TV viewers filled with awe.”