Kristoff and Boasson Hagen to go their own way at World Championships

Norwegian duo insist Tour of Britain isn't about point-scoring

The Tour of Britain may be pitting an array of the world's best sprinters against each other, but within the bluster of this week's bunch finishes there's a more personal, head-to-head, rivalry building.

Alexander Kristoff vs Edvald Boasson Hagen. At stake, a claim to leadership of the Norwegian team at the World Championships, which are taking place on home soil later this month.

The issue might not warrant much attention, were it not for the debacles of the last two Worlds road races. Kristoff was unhappy on both occasions, firstly in Richmond because Boasson Hagen went with the attacks on the final climb and – supposedly against orders – contributed instead of saving himself to tee up a sprint, and again in Qatar when Kristoff publicly accused Boasson Hagen of sprinting for himself instead of performing leadout duties.

As such, there's enough intrigue here for two separate Norwegian television channels to send crews to Britain for blow-by-blow coverage of the pair's fortunes.

"We still don't agree about what happened last year," Kristoff told Cyclingnews in Mansfield on Wednesday.

The wounds have been bandaged up, if not completely healed. "We talk – we don't have a big problem," he added.

In that respect, the European Championships, where Kristoff won, went some way to easing the tension, though there hasn't been enough of a rapprochement to make for a fully integrated and coherent approach in Bergen later this month.

"Neither he will work for me nor I will work for him," said Kristoff. "We'll both ride our chance but we will not rely on each other."

Boasson Hagen was more diplomatic in tone, saying: "We've put last year behind us and we're just looking forward to racing in our home country. "We are slightly different riders so we can help each other and use each other."

The Worlds road race takes place on September 24, with a road that starts out picking its way across the fjords before hitting Bergen for 12 laps of a finishing loop that contains three climbs, the last of which is 1.4km long at 6.5 per cent, topping out 8km from the line.

"The course suits Edvald slightly better because I think there are going to be attacks in the end, and I don't think I'll be strong enough on the climb to follow the attacks – I'll be strong enough to sit in the group, but he can follow the attacks," said Kristoff.

"Maybe he has the best chance on that course, but usually I perform better in the longer races, so we will see."

Britain

So far at the Tour of Britain it's Boasson Hagen who has been the more impressive of the two. He finished runner-up on stages 1 and 3, and crossed the line first on stage 2, only to be relegated for an irregular sprint.

The Dimension Data rider, however, insisted this week isn't about point-scoring or sending messages to the national coaches.

"It's important to get a victory all the time when you're racing," he told Cyclingnews. "It's not really about this race. It's good for both of us to race now and get fit for the Worlds. It's going to be a different race at the Worlds to this one. We'll have to see who's the strongest on the day.

"I feel I have pretty good form now, and I'm getting good now, so hopefully I can keep it or get even better for the Worlds."

Kristoff has finished fourth, fifth, and third, but pointed out the caveat that he has very little support here. While Boasson Hagen has the luxury of Mark Cavendish and his leadout man Mark Renshaw working for him in the closing kilometres, Kristoff is something of a lone wolf in a Katusha-Alpecin team full of riders training for the Worlds team time trial.

"With the team I have around me in this race, for the sprints it's quite difficult to win because there are many strong sprint teams here with Orica, Dimension Data, and also Sky," he said.

"I'm not really worried about beating Edvald, because that's during all year. If you see at Hamburg and Plouay, I beat him, and he's beaten me here. Every race we do one has to be in front of the other."

One will have to be in front of the other again in Bergen on September 24 – will the bandages remain in tact? 

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