Axel Zingle celebrates his win on stage 1 of Arctic Race of Norway. (Photo by JONATHAN NACKSTRAND/AFP via Getty Images)

This is a man who just won 400 litres of beer

At the Arctic Race of Norway, there was more than money and glory on the line.

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The Arctic Race of Norway is not, with all due respect, one of the premier events on the pro cycling calendar. But what it lacks in prestige, it makes up for in vibes. 

For starters, there was this race-opening social media stunt which saw the teams compete to be the most convincing Viking horde: 

That competition – won by Intermarché, in my opinion, and definitively lost by China Glory – was a mere prelude to the four stages of racing. Across the gorgeous canvas of the north of Norway, from Mo i Rana down to Trondheim, Team Cofidis were key aggressors before Andreas Leknessund (Team DSM) soloed away to a swashbuckling GC victory on the final stage. 

Leknessund’s win has gotten most of the media attention, but to me there was a much more entertaining climax to the race. 

Let’s focus in on an intermediate sprint 26 kilometres into stage 4, in the town of Spongdal. At this arbitrary point, there was something big on the line: 400 litres of beer, courtesy of the world’s northernmost brewery, Mack. 

Amazingly, this prize isn’t even the funniest to be associated with this race over the years – until last year, there was 500 kilograms of salmon on the line. For 2022, half a ton of fish was traded for bulk beer – ”something special” to celebrate Mack’s 150th anniversary, according to a representative of the race organisers. 

A gift certificate for commercial quantities of Norwegian salmon is a truly iconic podium prize, as Frederik Dversnes found out in 2021. (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)

Four hundred litres of beer is a lot of beer anywhere in the world, but in Norway – an expensive country for most things, but especially for drinking beer – that’s a particularly lucrative offering. 

Fortunately enough, for the purposes of this story, I am currently in Norway, and was able to pop up to the local supermarket to do some street-value calculations to put that prize into context. CyclingTips can confirm that a sample 500 ml can of Mack’s most reasonably priced ‘Arctic Beer’ runs at 31,90 Norwegian Kroner (inclusive of two kroner ‘pant’ – recycling rebate). A six-pack is 191,40 NOK (just under US$20 / AU$30). There are no economies of scale in buying more.

There are slightly more than 133 six-packs in 400 litres, totalling more than 25,000 NOK (~US$2,700/AU$3,700). In the fridges of suburban supermarkets across Norway, these six-packs are piled on pallets, seven high, three across, six deep. One full pallet is slightly less beer than was on offer at the Arctic Race of Norway. 

It is a lot of beer. Maybe even too much.

We are talking about one of those blocks, plus seven further six-packs. Just so you can visualise it.

To the final stage of my field research. Because we value editorial credibility at CyclingTips, I even bought and then put one (1) Arctic Beer into my mouth. It was … fine. 

Arctic Beer is just one of many product lines in Mack’s range, of course. There are sickly Kiwi-flavoured gluten-free pilsners. There are lots of cans with polar bears on them. There is a banana IPA, which can’t possibly be good but I was too much of a coward to try. Most of Mack’s beer, in my experience, lies in a spectrum between ‘bad’ and ‘average’. Many of them are a bit more expensive than Arctic Beer, and for the purposes of this promotion, I think we can assume that there was a bit of variety in the prize, but sans confirmation, let’s stick with our initial valuation. 

And the winner? Well, Israel-Premier Tech seemed thirsty and led out the sprint, but Axel Zingle (Team Cofidis) swept past to easily take home the spoils. I don’t know if he knew at the time he’d won a stupid amount of beer. Possibly not, but after I contacted Cofidis for comment I’m sure it filtered down. 

“I won … what?! But I only brought carry-on luggage!” (Photo by JONATHAN NACKSTRAND/AFP via Getty Images)

The big question: what does an Axel Zingle do with 133 six-packs of middling Norwegian beer?

I had visions of a tumultuous run-in with Norwegian customs on his way out of Trondheim; perhaps a violent inter-team squabble over Lite Mango Passion IPAs. Perhaps he necked the ceremonial trophy upon exiting the final presentation, wobbling about in the midnight sun like a real mess.

(Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)

Sadly, none of these scenarios proved to be true, probably because everyone involved is a professional and not a caricature in my fevered imagination. A representative from the ASO, the event organisers, claimed that “he wants to share it with the team”, and Cofidis confirmed that all the team “drank a part” yesterday.

From there, Mack will ship the rest to the team HQ in Lille, where it will be shared among all the staff and riders. Which is very sensible, and very well thought through, and very egalitarian.  

And that, dear reader, is the story of how a French cycling team won more Norwegian beer than they know what to do with.

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