On Friday, August 18, in the UCI 2.2 category Baltic Chain Tour starting from Tartu(Estonia), the reigning champion from last year, 23-year-old Rait Ärm, will line up against 150 competitors. Similar to the previous year, he is part of the Estonian national team, and the goal is nothing less than replicating last year’s success.
“I already have the overall victory in the Baltic Chain Tour, so there are no pressure about that,” Ärm stated before the important domestic event. “I would be more than happy to help some colleagues from the Estonian national team secure the overall victory, which of course doesn’t mean that if I have the chance, I wouldn’t take it. Far from it. I know how sweet the taste of victory is and I’m ready to experience it again at any time.”
The last time the Baltic Tour was won in consecutive years was nearly half a century ago. In 1975 and 1976, the Latvian Andris Jēkabsons claimed first place, and interestingly, that time too, the victorious tour started from Tartu. Could it really happen again!?
Rait Ärm, who won the U23 European Championship bronze in road racing four years ago, has always been in good form during the Baltic Chain Tours. In 2020, he won a stage finishing in Valga, secured third place in the general classification, and took home the title of the best young rider.
Last year, he was on the starting line for the second time, won the opening stage in Panevežys, Lithuania, and with the support of his team, held the leader’s jersey throughout the multi-day race. Replicating such success this year will be challenging due to the expected intense competition.
“The group will consist of 150 men, which will definitely make the race more open. I believe that in case of group sprints, Martin Laas will be the first choice for the Estonian team, but no one guarantees group sprints. You always have to stay alert with the team and seize the opportunity. It could easily go like last year, where the breakaway happened right on the first stage, which largely decided the outcome,” Ärm discussed.
There’s no reason to complain about the condition; the form seems solid. Looking at the entire season, it’s certainly better than last year. Three weeks ago, Ärm won a one-day race on the UCI calendar, the Grand Prix de la ville de Perenchies, in France. “I’ve been able to perform quite well this year, and this time everything clicked perfectly. I’m very satisfied with the Go Sport – Roubaix Lille Metropole team. The management sees that I can achieve results, and they provide the opportunity for that.” While Ärm won’t be riding with his French professional team on the Baltic Chain Tour, his motivation is high regardless, especially on the tour’s second stage in Latvia, where his parents will be there to support him on the Sigulda ascent.
The first stage of the tour will start on August 18 at 11:00 from Tartu, in front of the Estonian National Museum. The finish will be between 15:15 and 15:45 near Valga, at the Jaanikese Motocenter.
On Saturday, August 19, the race will begin in Sigulda, Latvia, and on Sunday, August 20, in Panevežys, Lithuania, the start will also be at 11:00.