Arctic Race of Norway: Cycling the Arctic Circle

Now that the 2017 Tour de France is over, international cyclists have headed north—to Norway, home to islands, fjords and the Arctic Race of Norway, the northernmost multiple-stage bicycle race in the world.

It all starts 68 degrees north of the Arctic Circle in Andørja, a small town of 1,500 inhabitants, which hosted a popular local bicycle race for many years. In 2009, two cycling enthusiasts presented their business plan for bringing an annual international bicycle race to Northern Norway. They convinced Amaury Sport Organisation (A.S.O.), organizer of Tour de France and Vuelta a España, to partner with them.

Now in its fifth year, the Arctic Race of Norway attracts world-class cyclists and is broadcast in 190 countries. The four-day, four-stage race kicked off this year on August 10 in Engenes, a tiny village at the northern tip of Andørja. During the race, the peloton will move north, passing the green hillsides lining the fjords and cresting mountain passes on the way toward the city of Tromsø, which will host the fourth and final stage.

Tromsø is the largest town north of the Arctic Circle, and also the space capital of Norway, home to several satellite and remote-sensing companies and research institutes. Located on a small island between the mainland and the mountainous island of Kvaløya, the city center has a fascinating economic history. It served as a key place for hunting in the Arctic, timber transport from Russian rivers, trade with the Pomors of Northwest Russia, and coal mining. Commonly called “The Gateway to the Arctic,” Tromsø was also the starting point for polar expeditions. Today, Tromsø is a vibrant town with a rich cultural life, and the center for research and education in the Northern Norway.

DigitalGlobe’s GeoEye-1 satellite captured an image of Tromsø on Sunday, August 13, which shows Tromsø surrounded by towering mountains. “From sea to summit” is a very fitting description of the landscape around the city. The start and finish of stage four are both in the city center, but most of the racing will be on Kvaløya (Whale Island).

On the right side of the satellite image is the mainland, parts of Tromsdalen valley and the iconic white cathedral designed by the architect Jan Inge Hovig, often compared to Jan Utzon’s Sydney Opera House. Tromsø is the hometown of KSAT, Kongsberg Satellite Services, a company that specializes in satellite ground networks. This year, KSAT is celebrating 50 years of operation. KSAT’s antenna park can be seen by the small lake on top of the island.

The last part of the Arctic Race of Norway takes cyclists through the residential areas of Kvaløya and over Sandnessund Bridge (seen on the left in the above image) to Tromsøya island, where most of Tromsø’s 75,000 inhabitants will be lining the route or enjoying the festival around the finishing line.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this overview of the Arctic Race of Norway provided by DigitalGlobe imagery. Congratulations to all the riders in this year’s race!