Crosswinds, cobbles, and a 10 km climb: the Tour of Scandinavia has it all

CyclingTips spoke to the Ladies' Tour of Norway organiser on finally bringing about the long-anticipated 'Battle of the North'.

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The so-called ‘Battle of the North’ race will finally happen in 2022. A Women’s WorldTour stage race from the Ladies Tour of Norway organisers incorporating Norway, Denmark, and Sweden has been promised for a few years now, however, as with many things, the pandemic has delayed proceedings. 

“We started the Ladies Tour of Norway back in 2014 and we joined the WorldTour calendar in 2017,” race organiser Roy Moberg tells me via phone. “After the first edition of the WorldTour race of Ladies Tour of Norway in 2017 I had a dream to build a strong, big Scandinavian race.”

Moberg is passionate about his race and about women’s cycling – he has reason to be given that his daughter, Emilie, has raced professionally for over a decade. 

“The pandemic situation was hard to handle, especially when you have to cross the border several times,” Moberg explains. “So in parallel with planning and organising the Ladies’ Tour of 2021 we have worked closely together with the Danish Cycling Federation. And here we are now ready to release the concept.” 

Riejanne Markus won her first WorldTour race on stage two of the 2021 Ladies Tour of Norway.

The Ladies Tour of Norway’s August calendar slot put it close to the Swedish Vårgårda road race and time trial. The original plan was to incorporate both races to make a 10-day event. 

“In the very beginning, back in winter 2018, we joined Vårgårda and the organiser of Vårgårda to talk about it and he was very eager to create such a race,” says Moberg. Unfortunately, that organiser died of cancer the following year. 

“So after that, Vårgårda wanted to stay a single race and no hard feelings about that because Vårgårda is a very nice race as well and we support Vårgårda and if they want to still do it as a single race it’s OK for us,” Moberg says. “But of course if Vårgårda want to join us in the future we are there and ready to push the button to integrate Vårgårda into the Scandinavian race of course, but so far they they don’t want to be a part of the Tour of Scandinavia and that’s OK.”

With the Swedish race choosing to stay separate, the length of the race had to be reduced to six stages. “At the moment, with Vårgårda one week before the Tour of Scandinavia it’s not space in the calendar to do more than six stages.”

The other major change from the original concept is the name: “At the moment, when everyone is talking about the Ukraine war and all this tragic situation going on there, I think it’s not good for the promotion to call it Battle of the North,” explains Moberg. “So then we just one week ago decided to change the name to Tour of Scandinavia and only use Battle of the North as a kind of slogan.”

Chloe Hosking winning the final stage of the 2021 Ladies Tour of Norway.

The race might be shortened slightly from the original plan but Moberg promises it will still be a challenging and exciting event. “We have some stages for the sprinters, some stages are for the puncheurs, and one big stage for the climbers,” he says. “It’s a really challenging course because it’s a good mix I think.”

With the shortest stage at 118 km and two stages of 153 km, both the distance and the terrain will make the Tour of Scandinavia a tough one to win. 

From the very first stage, the riders will be challenged. “The course in between Copenhagen and Helsingør we have utilised a very nice route,” Moberg says. “It’s a kind of Flanders route actually, because it’s very small roads, narrow roads, a lot of cobblestone sections, and I think it would be a really nice stage to watch.”

He also cites stage 2, where the race crosses over to Sweden, as a potentially tough day out for the peloton. “That stage in Sweden could be a really challenging stage when it comes to the crosswinds because we do the stage almost very close to the seafront,” he says. “It’s a very beautiful seafront called the The West Sweden coastline. Of course, if we have a windy condition it can be challenging for the riders and the teams.” 

By far the biggest challenge, however, will be the queen stage, on day five which finishes atop a 10 km climb to Norefjell which was used for alpine skiing in the 1952 Oslo Winter Olympics and will undoubtedly prove decisive for the GC. 

Missing from the race is a time trial, of which there are scant few for the women throughout the season, but Moberg hasn’t ruled that out for future editions.

“We have discussed this a lot,” he says. “If we will extend to more stages I think we will have a time trial. It maybe also will be a time trial even with six stages next year coming, but that’s not this year. If we joined Vårgårda then we will have a very good route for a time trial in Vårgårda as well. So let’s see.”

Last year’s GC winner, Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar).

All of that action would be pointless without fans being able to watch it and Moberg has promised a high-quality television production in order to broadcast the race live. “We have a very big scale TV production,” he says. “We have the same quality as the Tour de France actually, because it’s a very good production and a high-end production. Two and half hours live coverage per day.

“We are very satisfied with the distribution as well, because we will have live distributions to 208 countries with a potential of 166 million households. So we are almost live in every country on the same scale as the big men’s races. So that’s a very good effort for the women’s cycling in itself. We are happy with that.”  

The extended Women’s WorldTour calendar includes 11 stage races in 2022, many of which are concentrated inside a few months. Moberg is confident that his race will attract the top level riders this year, but is candid about his desire to move the race’s calendar slot for future editions. 

“If we want to extend to more stages then it’s better to have it in May, June than in the middle of August, because it’s too close to the women’s Tour de France and there are also a lot of championships going on in August and September,” he explains.

“So to be honest we have had some conversations with UCI to try to find another spot in the calendar for next year. But it’s very hard to succeed in that because [there are] a lot of races on the women’s calendar already. And the teams they are not ready to double their programme because they don’t have enough riders to do that. So let’s see.” 

Moberg is also clear about the need for development within the peloton before the calendar is expanded further. “I think the women’s calendar as it is now is quite fully booked,” he says. “And I think it’s not possible to raise more big races for the women before the teams are able to have more riders into the teams.

“In general, the development of women’s cycling [is] great. So you can say it’s not a problem, it’s [more] a challenge. But it has to be done step by step, and the teams and the organisers have to do it together with UCI to succeed as a common package.” 

For now, Moberg is simply glad that his concept has finally come to fruition.

“We are really happy to finally release the Tour of Scandinavia,” he says. “It has been a long journey since my dreams were founded in 2017. The journey has been up and down but I think we have a really great potential for doing the race.” 

2022 Tour of Scandinavia route (August 9-14)

Stage 1: Copenhagen – Helsingør (Denmark) 147.7 km
Stage 2: Orust – Strömstad (Sweden) 153.4 km 
Stage 3: Moss – Sarpsborg (Norway) 118.8 km 
Stage 4: Askim – Mysen (Norway) 127.7 km
Stage 5: Vikersund – Norefjell (Norway) 132.9 km
Stage 6: Lillestrom – Halden (Norway) 153.4 km

For more information visit the race website.

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