Oslo (AFP)

The Dutchman Mathieu van der Poel and the Frenchman Warren Barguil are among the favorites of the Arctic Race that launches Thursday in Norway in the idyllic Lofoten, north of the Arctic Circle.

For its seventh edition, the most northerly professional cycling race in the world will return to the lands of its beginnings, where the mountains are sinking into the sea.

Twenty teams line up this year at Å (pronounced "O"), near the tip of the archipelago, for a four-stage race - the first two giving pride of place to the sprinters, the other two to the climbers - which will end Sunday on the continent, in Narvik.

"With his two stage victories and his best climber jersey of the Tour de France in 2017, Warren Barguil, in the top 10 overall this year, is clearly one of the favorites," said the country's veteran Thor Hushovd, who won the first edition of the Arctic Race in 2013.

The champion of France on the road in title could notably be distinguished in the ascent of Storheia, 3.5 kilometers to 11,8%, nicknamed "the Norwegian Ventoux". In this third stage, it will also count on the Kazakh Alexey Lutsenko, double winner of the Tour of Oman, and the Russian Ilnur Zakarin, third of the Vuelta in 2017.

Winner of two stages last year, sprinter van der Poel, grandson of Raymond Poulidor, is also highly anticipated, but will have to fight with other cadors like his compatriot Danny van Poppel or the French Bryan Coquard and Christophe Laporte .

In 2018, it was the Russian Sergei Chernetski who imposed himself.

© 2019 AFP