Thursday, 2 August 2012

Arctic Race of Norway - the new stage race on the calender

"We wish to make the Arctic Race of Norway a strong contributor on the international race calendar. Based on the extremely beautiful nature and concept, this race will be unique in international cycling." - Yann Le Moenner, ASO managing director.

The words of Yann Le Moenner is from a trip to the northern part of Norway just two days after the 2011 Tour de France, where three ASO executives, among them Baptiste Kern, ASO Development Director for new concepts, paid the organisers of the Arctic Tour of Norway a visit. The ASO directors did a trip on a RIB to Trollfjorden where they witnessed the famous spectacular turn by the coastal express. They also visit the city of Svolvær and went out fishing in the lovely Lofoten area.

The five-stage race is supposed to begin on the 25th of July 2013.

The magnifiscent Lofoten

Photo from Brittannica

The long term goal is to host a World Tour event in Norway, but the application to UCI aims for 2.1 classification, something the ASO presence as an organiser seem to be a guarantor for. In Norway, the Glava Tour of Norway is the only race with a 2.1 status, something the organisers of that event had to work hard over several years to get.
The 2.1 classification means that minimum 50% of the riders will be from World Tour teams.

The early days
The organiser in Norway has its roots back to the Andørja Sportsklubb, who started organising a cyclo sportive called Tour de Andørja back in 2000. The race has developed during the years and consists today of a road race, MTB race, free ride on skis, in addition to an event for kids and some running events - all under the umbrella of Tour de Andørja Triple Challenge.

The organisers set themselves big goals already from the beginning. In 2003 they set an ambition to host the national road championship, which was granted in 2004. The national championship in 2006 was helt at Andørja (small island in the northern part of Norway). The plans of organising a big international event began in 2008, with the organisers going to Ringerike GP (now Glava Tour of Norway) to learn form their experience and in 2009 they went to Denmark for the 2.0 race held there.

Two of the individuals responsible for the Arctic Race of Norway, Ole Skardal and Knut-Eirik Dybdal, used their contacts within media, namely sports director at the TV2, Bjørn Taalelsen, and above all Trond Ahlsen (also TV2), and a meeting was arranged in Paris 27th of April 2011. The Norwegians came well prepared with video of the landscape and a powerpoint brief in French. The meeting was scheduled to take 20 minutes, but lasted for over three hours.

ASO and ARN officials in Trollfjorden

Photo by ARN
Game plan
The race is relying on a package so to speak, with exotic and new ways of organising a race combined with nature at its best. The race offer spectacular landscape of the northern part of Norway, breathtaking nature with the sea, mountains and wildlife like whales. I spoke to Knut-Eirik Dybdal about how to attract be best riders to the race, as it will take place just after the tour when several big names will ride different high-income crits around Europe and with the Eneco Tour coming just after. The reponse was "partly the whole spectacular package, partly high prize money for the stages." The fact that ASO are among the organisers guarantee a certain technical and logistical frame to the race
"Another important matter is the exotism of the race, taking place as far North as it is with the special light and nature. The fact that the teams and riders will stay on cruiseships for the entire race is new to cycling. This means they can bring their families as well, a nice gesture as the travel days during a season is somewhat full as it is. The teams, riders and media will each stay in the same hotel for the duration av the race, something which is unique in stage races", Dybdal says.

One important aspect is the midnight sun. Not only because it is spectacular in itself, but because of the business opportunities it provides. If you're confused think broadcasting across continents. The possibility to have one or more stages late in the evening european time gives possibilities to broadcast live to the US prime time. So much for the watching races live at odd times on a language you don't understand.  

1st row: Ståle, Yann Le Moenner, Knut-Eirik Dybdal, Trond Ahlsen, Baptiste Kern, Petter Ytterstad and Bjørn Taalesen.
2nd row: Asbjørn Andersen, Jorodd Asphjell, Anita Olset and Laurent Boqouillet.

Photo by Ole Skardal.

The organisers and ASO will, as soon as the Govermental financial guarantee is given, establish a company reponsible for organising the event. ASO will own 60% while Arctic race of Norway 40%. Note, this is not the normality of ASO ownership, which tends to be 100%. The Vuelta is an exemption where ASO own 60% as they bought a share in the race back in 2008.
The budget for the first year is about 27,3 MNOK equivalent of €3,7 million. To be approved ny the UCI as a stage race, the organiser have to prove 100% financial support.

The race follows one the ASO models, with establishing a rather small race organisation and rely on short-term rentals/augmentees of the spesific competence needed.
ASO are a technical as well as a financial guarantor to the UCI in addition to the prospect of hosting a stage race with high UCI-classification.

ASO will at the highest have as much as 30 people involved woth the race, a symbol of how much they want this race to succeed. The majority is mostly technical personell as ASO has a special role as technical organiser of the race.

According to Knut-Eirik Dybdal, Thor Hushovd has already spread the word among the riders in the pro peloton, making sure they are informed about the race.

Behind the company Arctic Race of Norway AS is a company called Nordic. Nordic is a company that has several interests in the region in terms of property development, hotel management and restaurants.

Ole Skardal and Knut-Eirik Dybdal at this year's Tour de France - talking to ASO-personnel.

Photo by Mads Bang Pedersen, downloaded here

In order to bring such an event to Norway, or anywhere else for that matter, numbers are of highest importance. Privat corporations as well as politicians depend on numbers, hopefully not the red ones. So here are some of the estimated effects:

  • 2013: 117 MNOK / €15,7 M in returns to the area, 88 MNOK of these related to tourism
  • 2013: 263 new jobs in the region if the race takes place

  • 2016: 333 MNOK / €44,7 M in returns to the area, 298 MNOK of this related to tourism
  • 2016: 719 new jobs in the region if the race takes place 

  • Marketing value associated with TV-exposure estimated to be 15,5 million USD (same as Tour of Oman)
  • In addition to the existing hotel stays the race organisers estimates 36880 nights additional in 2013.
The ASO have estimated that a stage race of this caliber need three years as a minimum to be able to generate stabil income through sponsors etc. As of now the organisers are in dialog with several potential sponsors, but as this early stage, revealing these could jeopardize sponsorship. However, the organisers want the sponsors to be active in the area/region and with the intent to help cycling, in addtion to the business perspective of wanting to boost their own sales.

The race will generate sideeffects as a result so entrepreneurs - unite!

The route
As of now the route is a well kept secret. But, what is known is that starts and finish need to be in towns for several reasons, to ensure this is the big fiesta it can be and of logistical reasons. The race will take place in all the three northern countys in Norway, a crossing of the polar circle, a finish in the city of Svolvær in Lofoten and Tromsø can not be ruled out. Another important matter is capacity for harbouring cruiseboats.

The race have so many possibilities for a unique atmoshere with the special nature of the northern part o f Norway with the special wildlife. The possibility to have a stage race on a latitude far North is exotic and the ASO directors loved it when they paid the area a visit.

The race is depending a govermental financial support, in order to be fully approved by the UCI. The organisers and ASO have put a deadline on themselves to have this in place no later than 1st of September 2012. The UCI seem to have faith in the project, as they already have scheduled the race on the race calender from the 25th of Augsut 2013.


  1. bringing team cars and trucks, this crops up as potentially problematic. if they all live on a cruise ship, then ideally there is a hold or belly with a place to work on bikes. what remains is how to get the cars up there and how to solve the transportation logistics.

    1. Hi, there are possible to both take cars while still have space to work on bikes in the belly of that ship.