Spotting the cycling talents of tomorrow
The next generation of Arctic Race competitors is showing great promise
It was August 13, and the final leg of the Arctic Race was about to begin in the northern town of Tromsø. But before the professional cyclists arrived, 120 young talents from six different nations were allowed onto the race circuit—in a competition called the Arctic Heroes of Tomorrow Race.
All photos: Statoil / Harald Pettersen
Tensions are mounting as the participants wait on the Arctic Race starting line, and 120 cyclists await the starting gun. But this isn't the actual Arctic Race—it’s the Arctic Heroes of Tomorrow Race—a junior race for the talents of tomorrow.
“The Arctic Race of Norway is a fantastic event for the whole of northern Norway,” says Statoil’s sponsorship manager, Cathrine Instebø. “For Statoil and Heroes of Tomorrow, it’s only natural to arrange a juniors race for the talented young athletes who hope to become professional cyclists in the future.”
The girls will cycle 10 laps of the 6.4 km circuit, while the boys will do 15.
The night before their race, the young competitors gathered at a hotel in Tromsø to meet Norwegian former elite cyclist and Heroes of Tomorrow ambassador, Thor Hushovd, and hear him describe his journey to the top of the cycling sport.
And for six of the young cyclists in the hall, this evening will be extra special: four boys and two girls have been nominated for the Young Cycling Talent of the Year Award, and the winner will be announced tonight.
There are so many talented young cyclists in the world. Here in Norway we have an almost unprecedentedly strong junior team for boys and girls
Who will be the 2017 Cycling Talent of the Year?
At last, the moment of truth. The six nominees are invited to come up on to the stage. Thor Hushovd and Statoil's sponsorship manager Cathrine Instebø pick up the envelope containing the winner's name. The six riders exchange slightly nervous glances, and their smiles seem a touch more strained than earlier in the evening.
"The Cycling Talent of the Year is decided by public vote, meaning it reflects the views of the people. And the winner is...Søren Wærenskjold!
Applause breaks out in the hall, and Søren glances at the other nominees almost apologetically before stepping forward to receive his prize: he is the 2017 Cycling Talent of the Year.
"I didn't expect to win, so I was quite taken aback, but I am thrilled. I hope people voted for me because they believe I have a good cycling career ahead of me. Winning this prize will certainly further motivate me to continue improving," says the 17-year-old from Mandal, who rides for Ringerike Cycling Club.
And while his fellow cyclists are busy congratulating him, Heroes of Tomorrow ambassador Hushovd explains why he thinks Søren was the deserving winner.
"Søren has done really well, and with the silver medal he took in the individual juniors' race at the European Road Cycling Championships in Denmark this summer, he deserves the Talent of the Year Prize. But it’s also important to highlight the entire Heroes of Tomorrow junior national team, because they have taken cycling in Norway to an unprecedented level. I’
m very much looking forward to following Søren and the rest of the team in the future," said Hushovd.
ON THE ROAD AGAIN
And the following morning, the 120 young hopefuls take their places on the starting line in Tromsø for the Arctic Heroes of Tomorrow Race. 10 or 15 laps of the 6.4 km circuit lie before them. And sure enough, the Norwegian cyclists, whom Hushovd has spoken so highly of, are the ones who win the race on this occasion.
The winner in the boys' class is Idar Andersen from Melhus, who was also nominated for this year's Talent of the Year Prize. Søren came in fifth. The winner in the girls' class is Nora Tveit from Stavanger.
I didn't expect to win, so I was quite taken aback, but I am thrilled. I hope people voted for me because they believe I have a good cycling career ahead of me.
Søren Wærenskjold – Young Cycling Talent of the Year
Important to support future athletes
For over ten years, Statoil has supported promising young talents in sports, culture and science through its Heroes of Tomorrow talent programme. And this work has borne fruit.
"Together with our partners, we have worked to ensure that young talents are given the opportunity to develop with a view to establishing themselves at a high level. And we see that the work we do enables our young talents to move up a level and perform even better. Statoil will continue to work on talent development, because Norway needs talented people, be they engineers, athletes or musicians," says Cathrine Instebø.