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Norwegian Nordhagen wins the opening stage of the Junior Peace Race

Litoměřice - The opening stage of the 51st edition of the Junior Peace Race was won by Norwegian representative Jorgen Nordhagen. The active youngster shared the victory with the American Auguste on the finishing straight. The Northman was a slightly faster.

           "It was a very hard stage to start with, but I tried to make it even harder. I felt great on the climbs so I decided to attack as hard as I could. I wanted to be at the front from the start, so I couldn't do it any other way. Plus, August and I worked really well together. It just had to work out," said Norwegian stage winner Jorgen Nordhagen at the finish.

            Exactly 141 riders from 24 teams and 21 countries took part in stage 1. The riders started with a challenging 100km stage with the start and finish at Mírové square in Litoměřice. There were two mountain premiums on the programme - first in Lovečkovice and then in Mukařov. The rugged profile caused that very soon the starting field was no longer compact, but it was the second climbing premium that was decisive for the stage. Immediately after it, thirty kilometres before the finish, a pair - Jorgen Nordhagen and American Andrew August - decided to make the decisive break. The latter left nothing to chance and rushed to the finish in Litoměřice. The northerner had slightly more strength in the final spurt and in the end it was he who could celebrate the stage victory. At the same time he immediately put on the yellow jersey of the race leader. "I am happy. After all, the Peace Race is one of the greatest stage races in the world," smiled a satisfied Nordhagen, who was accompanied to the ceremonial podium by second-placed Andrew August and third-placed Albert Philipsen of Denmark, who led the main field to bronze by twenty-three seconds.

            Even before the start there was a bit of a shock and a big disappointment for the home fans. Stepan Zahálka, a child of Terezín cycling, starting in the Czech national team, had a very unpleasant crash in the downhill in Žitenice. After treatment and a bike change he managed to start the race. "Stepan was already bruised from last week and now he crashed again. To start with such a handicap, you are very weakened. It's a shame and we are all sorry. We'll see how he will cope with it," commented on the accident the representative's successful brother Matěj, who is the reigning elite national champion and came to Litoměřice to see the debut of young Stepan. Stepan eventually crossed the finish line in 78th place with a loss of more than four minutes. Jan Bittner, who came in the main field, was the best of the home riders.

On Friday, the second day of racing, the peloton will have two race checks. First, there is a nine-kilometre individual time trial, which will be held for the first time in Třebívlice at the popular "Plum Track". In the afternoon, the riders will have to tackle a sixty-kilometre flatter stage with a start in Roudnice nad Labem and a finish in Štětí. "We'll see how the time trial will turn out, but then I believe that we'll manage to keep the yellow," says the race's overall leader Nor Nordhagen, who took bronze in the overall standings last year as a "first year" and intends to improve his result this year.

Results - Stage 1 (Litoměřice, 102.8 km):
1. Jorgen Nordhagen (Norway) 2:29:27
2. Andrew August (USA) - same time
3. Albert Philipsen (Denmark) +0:23
4. Patrick Frydkjar (Den)
5. Thom van der Werff (NED)
19. Jan Bittner (CZE) - all the same time

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