A successful Tour of Scandinavia 2023 is now history, and after taking a moment to reflect and step out of the “bubble,” it’s appropriate to provide a brief summary of this year’s event.
As known, the Tour of Scandinavia isn’t just the cycling race itself; it also numerous side events that are part of our race concept. The race week began with the Green Summer Cycling School at Fredriksten Fortress in Halden, organized by our long-time partner, Green Cycling. Unfavorable weather conditions on Sunday morning may have contributed to lower participation, but the weather cleared up later in the morning, and those who attended had a fun and educational day focused on enjoying cycling and mastering it in various situations.
On Monday, we arranged the “Sustainability Seminar” in collaboration with Viken County Council. During just over three hours in Byparken in Halden, invited guests, partners, and others interested were given informative insights from several exciting speakers on how sustainability is taken seriously and developed in various cultural and sports events.
Tuesday was the big prelude day, with the Nordic Youth Challenge Kick-off for its participants, and a Get2gether evening in Halden square, featuring various cultural performances. The Tour of Norway for kids was also arranged in the afternoon, with enthusiastic participation from kids of all ages.
Wednesday was the first race day, with start at stage 1 in “Norway’s answer to Tuscany” – Mysen. Our good friends in Indre Østfold, had planned a packed program in the morning as a warm-up to the afternoon start. It included a breakfast seminar, city tours, the Green Summer Cycling School for elementary schools, business seminars, Tour of Norway for kids, and lively activities downtown before the start.
The 1. stage was nearly 125 km and followed familiar roads from previous stages of Ladies Tour of Norway/Tour of Scandinavia. The finish was in Halden, and it featured a challenging conclusion with several local circuits in the city center and a climb to Fredriksten Fortress on each circuit. Despite the demanding climbs, the field arrived relatively intact at the finish line. In the end, Dutch rider Lorena Wiebes from Team SD Worx emerged as the fastest in the sprint, closely followed by Elisa Balsamo from Lidl-Trek and last year’s overall winner, Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig from FDJ-Suez.
Before the finish in Halden, the “Nordic Youth Challenge” was arranged at the same time, a criterium race for girls aged 15-18 from all the Nordic countries, in collaboration with Like Muligheter, Thon Hotels, Viken County Council, and Halden municipality. This youth race was open to all and aimed to encourage increased participation among girls. Approximately 20 girls participated, and in the end, Mia Kronheim Gjertsen and Matilde Skjelde shared the victory in the women’s junior category, while Regine Solhaug Hansen claimed victory in the 15-16-year-old category. Feedback from participants, parents, and support staff about the event was overwhelmingly positive, and we hope to continue organizing it in the years to come.
On Wednesday evening and Thursday morning, the circus moved to Vikersund for the start of stage 2. The 150 km stage 2 featured many familiar roads from previous years, but the ascent to Norefjell this time had a different twist. Instead of climbing the 1-mile ascent from Noresund to Norefjell, riders had to take a route via Eggedal to reach the backside just before the top of the usual climb. There was great anticipation to see if last year’s overall winner, Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig, could repeat her stage win from last year. Despite a close battle with Annemiek van Vleuten from Team Movistar right up to the final meters, Ludwig demonstrated her climbing prowess once again on Norefjell. Kim Cadzow from Team Jumbo-Visma took third place, just 2 seconds behind the winner.
Stage 3 introduced two entirely new start- and finish cities: Kongsberg and Larvik. The stage began in pouring rain from Kongsberg on Friday morning, and despite the bad weather, it was heartwarming to see the large crowd that turned out to witness the start. The 135 km stage was hilly in many places, and with the challenging weather of wind and rain, it proved to be a tough stage for many. Nonetheless, it came down to a sprint finish. The winner of stage 1, Lorena Wiebes, once again showed her sprinting prowess and secured her second stage win of the tour. Liane Lippert from Movistar and Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig took the next two places.
The circus then headed to Denmark immediately after the finish, and after flying, taking a ferry, and driving many miles by car and bus, we arrived in Herning in southern Denmark, ready for the individual time trial the following day. The 16,5 km course, starting and finishing in Herning city center, was mostly flat, but had technical sections within the city that challenged the riders. At the end, Australian rider Grace Brown from FDJ-Suez proved to be the strongest with a winning time of 20:36, nearly 20 seconds ahead of Amber Kraak from Team Jumbo-Visma, and 23 seconds ahead of Annemiek van Vleuten from Movistar.
Even though the race itself had moved to Denmark, there were still some side events left in Norway. In Kulåsparken in Sarpsborg, the Green Summer Cycling School, organized by Green Cycling, was arranged, followed by Tour of Norway for kids. Both events with good participation and enthusiastic efforts from all involved.
The concluding stage of this year’s Tour of Scandinavia started in the picturesque town of Middelfart on the island of Fyn. The 144 km course headed south towards Haderslev, following the same roads as last year’s Tour de France. In Haderslev, a local circuit of 7,5 km awaited, to be completed three times. The finish was on top of an 800-meter climb, suggesting potential for significant gaps in the field. And gaps there were. The weather gods decided to open the floodgates during the final laps, creating an exciting conclusion with slippery roads and several crashes. Home favorite Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig was just seconds behind overall leader Annemiek van Vleuten before the final stage. With a victory in the last stage, she could potentially secure the overall win. And Cille did not disappoint her home fans. She crossed the finish line first in the challenging climb to the finish, to the wild delight of the spectators. But the question remained: would she win by enough seconds to take the overall victory? After some nervous moments following the finish, the judges calculated that Cecilie was just 2 seconds too late to claim the overall victory. Thus, it was superstar and veteran Annemiek van Vleuten who took the yellow jersey and the trophy of this year’s Tour of Scandinavia. She had announced beforehand that this would be her last international WorldTour race before retiring, making this victory a fitting end to a brilliant career.
You can see an overview of the different jersey winners here,
and complete results for all stages can be found here.
All in all, we can say we are very pleased with this year’s Tour of Scandinavia. The event went as planned, and fortunately, there were no major accidents during the race. Some crashes are inevitable, but thankfully, none were severe. The feedback from the UCI was also positive, so we can be satisfied. Now, it’s time to rest on our laurels for a little while before the work for next year’s race begins again.
Photo: Eventfotografene and Kjetil Birkedal Pedersen