CyclingPub Feature: Alexander Kristoff aims for WorldTour wins
Dec 06 2016 02:56 pm CET

CyclingPub Feature: Alexander Kristoff aims for WorldTour wins
CyclingPub Feature: Alexander Kristoff aims for WorldTour wins
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ALEXANDER KRISTOFF
TEAM KATUSHA

Norwegian sprinter Alexander Kristoff, former winner of the Tour of Flanders and Milan-San Remo, twice stage winner in the Tour de France and a bronze medalist at the London Olympics, took a moment to talk about the past and the future ahead of the 2017 season.

Relaxed. That's the word that best describes top sprinter Alexander Kristoff as he speaks with a small group of journalists ahead of the Katusha-Alpecin team presentation in a hotel in Benidorm, Spain. The Norwegian comfortably answers the questions, making a few jokes in the process as the sun slowly sets on the Mediterranean coast.

Kristoff has mixed feelings about the season that has passed. He got the victories, 13 in total, but didn't win any WorldTour races. "It's normal to be a little bit up and down. Also I was not so bad like you see in the results, I had good results even if I did not get the World Tour win. I did win sprints in the WorldTour but circumstances kept me from winning. There were many good opportunities where I was really close but still got second or third place. I hope to change this this year, we brought in a lot of power this year."
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Alexander Kristoff (Katusha-Alpecin presentation, Benidorm 2016)
Photos by Mary Cárdenas / CyclingPub.com

The Scandinavian sees no reason to make any changes to his winter training routine. "It has been working two years in a row now and I have been really good at the start of the season. In the classics I would have been good too, because I felt really got in San Remo, if I hadn't gotten sick after. I think this preparation for the season works really well.

"Going into the Tour I may make some small changes to be ready for the start of the Tour. To keep the sprint strong I may try to get into some strength training during the season. I feel like I do a lot of strength training and I feel strong and fast at the start of the year and then my speed goes down during the season. I hope that if I can manage to do some strength training during the season I will keep this power better," he explains.

Added motivation

The slightly disappointing 2016 season does give the rider added motivation to get better results in 2017. "For sure I want to come back with a good season. I think I started well last year and I was on the right track until I got sick. After that I got on the right track again as well. Actually I felt that I did things right last year but it was not working and I was missing something.

"I try to make small changes, train a bit of strength and put in a bit of gym during the season and see if I can keep my power a bit better. Hopefully that helps to win some more sprints but for the classics I don't think it will be a major difference. In the classics the last years I was good enough. For sure you should also try to be better. But I'm also a sprinter type and it's difficult to keep both. If I focus on being a classics rider but then I miss out on a lot of opportunities. I will try to focus to be the rider I am now and be as good as possible and try to develop. But I am soon 30 years old and it's difficult to keep the legs strong. The power is what it is. A few years ago I could sometimes push a 100 watts more in the sprint. On a good day I can reach almost the same numbers. The maximum power may be worse than two or three years ago but the intervals can be better. So maybe for the classics I can be better.

"The World Championship in Norway is a big goal"

With the next World Championships taking place in his home country, Kristoff sees an exellent opportunity to take the Rainbow jersey. "It will be a big goal for me and for all Norwegians I think. It will really be the carat at the end of the year and I will surely focus on this. But right now I think more about the classics because that's the first focus, the first part of the season. After this the Tour and the World's will be on my mind."

The 2016 World Championship didn't go as hoped for Kristoff as a result of the miscommunication between him and Edvald Boasson Hagen, finishing seventh and sixth respectively. Still, Kristoff believes that both riders should be present at the start next year.

"It's good both for me and Edvald. We have other riders coming up so maybe we're a team of nine leaders and I don't know how many places we get, that also depends. But for sure me and Edvald have to figure out a way to work together. It was not really working this year and last year we may not have gotten the best out of it either.

"We have talked about it after the race but we did not really agree. I haven't changed my mind so I don't know if he has... but for sure we should both be in the race because we both have a chance to win. [In the case of attacks] he can stay in the wheel and sprint himself and if it comes together I will be there."

"When I talk about it, I'm still angry"

Asked about the relationship between the two, Kristoff explains that there isn't really one to begin with.

"It's not like we usually talked so much before. Maybe we should clear the sky but we tried to it after the race and it did not really work because he felt that he did the best he could while I felt that he did not do his job at all so we agreed to disagree.

"I felt that this year the race was better for me but the feeling I had after the race and looking at the sprint was that he sprinted for himself and I was screaming to him for many hundreds of meters before he even lifted his ass so I was really angry about it and actually when I talk about it I'm still angry. But I don't think about it anymore usually, except when I talk to guys like you who bring it up," he jokingly adds.

Too hot, too cold, too rainy?

After the heat in Qatar, the weather may once again play a role as the World Championship takes place in Europe's rainy north. According to Kristoff, this isn't something to be concerned about.

"The conditions are what they are. You can't really change it. It's not like tennis where they don't play when it's raining. We can't put a roof so you just have to deal with the conditions like they are and dress for the weather. When I won San Remo I was wearing a long-sleeve jersey because it was cold and everybody else was freezing like hell but I was just perfect.

"For sure it (Qatar) was hot but if you are prepared.. I did not have any problems. But I stayed there since almost five days before the Team Time Trials and was already getting used to it. For sure it was difficult for people who came just a few days before. But the winner came four days before and I didn't hear him complain."

Reduced amount of riders: "Good if you're not the favorite"

While most of the discussion about having one rider less per team in Grand Tours and other big races focuses on big Grand Tour teams such as Sky, the decision is certain to affect sprinters as well.

"Yes, in general it will," Kristoff affirms. "It will be harder to control races for sure. There may be more possibilities for breaks. I feel this already when we race in Norway where we have six-man teams and when I raced there I was usually one of the main guys and we had to control the race. We had two or three guys to control and then suddenly you have two guys for the lead-out. Then it's more difficult to be the leading team and to be the favorite. It's easier with more riders, for sure. If you're not the favorite it's better. If you are, it's worse.

"I think if they don't add extra teams it can be better for security to have smaller packs. In a race with 200 riders there's way more stress than in a race with 160. In this aspect it can be good. On small roads we had a lot of accidents this year and this way we may reduce the amount of accidents. But I don't necessarily think that it makes the races better to watch. It can be more aggressive maybe and more important to get into the break and it can also be positive for the races but for the favorites it will be more difficult because it's hard to control."

I've never seen anything like Sagan before

One of Kristoff greatest rivals is of course two-times World Champion Peter Sagan. The Norwegian is yet to find a way to structurally deal with the Slovak's abilities.

"I haven't really figured that out. Sometimes I beat him though. He's a unique rider. Because he's so strong you can't really drop him unless it's a really long climb. He sprints like the best sprinters but none of the other sprinters have a chance to follow on the climbs. And the way he handles his bike and finds his way, even without help he just goes through the middle and somehow ends up at the front anyway. You have other guys that are good at this like Cavendish but he can't do the climbs like Sagan. You don't often see a rider with his abilities. I cannot remember seeing anything like this before."

The future is bright for Norway

As for the future of Norwegian cycling, Kristoff is decidedly positive. "You see the results from our young guys, we have been really good for many years in the Under-23 and we won again this year with a really good sprinter, [Kristoffer] Halvorsen. I think the future for Norwegian cycling is really bright. There are many guys coming up. I don't know how many pros we are but we are more than ever. Before we always had one or two pros like [Thor] Hushovd and [Kurt-Asle] Arvesen but now we are ten pros and many more guys are good enough but aren't pros yet. So this is a new situation for Norway and Norwegian cycling. Before it would be no problem to pick for the World Championship but now we have so many riders who can do it so it will be more difficult to make the selection. There may be a fight for the places."

By Jonathan Roorda
Photo of Alexander Kristoff by Mary Cárdenas / CyclingPub.com





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