Alexander Kristoff (Katusha-Alpecin) says he's in a better place physically and mentally ahead of Paris-Roubaix than he has ever been before. The Norwegian decided to forego the mid-week Scheldeprijs in favour of a visit home, where he has been able to spend time with his family and train on home roads.
Whether that will benefit him in the race itself, Kristoff doesn't know, but for now, he is happy with his decision.
"I feel quite ok. I never felt better on this day before but we will see," Kristoff said after the Paris-Roubaix team presentation in Compiègne on Saturday afternoon. "It's hard to say before I race the race, but at least now I feel a little bit more fresh and I feel a little bit more recharged. The head is not so tired from being away from home that long. I'm just coming to a new race a bit more like when I go to other races. I hope that it will work, we will see."
Kristoff has run much the same Classics programme for several years now, with a full complement of spring races. However, while Paris-Roubaix is a race that should suit his style, Kristoff has only broached the top 10 twice and never the top five, with ninth his best showing back in 2013. Frustrated by his lack of results at Roubaix, Kristoff decided that something needed to be done if he wanted to make some improvements.
"I always did Scheldeprijs and I was never better than ninth in Roubaix," he said. "I thought that I would try to do something different because ninth place is not really what I aim for. I wanted to get better so I had to find a different approach.
The trip home does mean that Kristoff has not been able to complete a recon of the cobbles. Kristoff left Belgium after the Tour of Flanders and returned to the Continent on Friday evening after having his flight delayed. The rest of his team meanwhile completed two recons on Thursday and Friday. The Norwegian press, which had arrived in Compiègne in force, were keen to ask his rivals whether or not the omission of a recon would harm him. Kristoff himself doesn't think so, having seen almost all the course over his past seven participations.
"I was a bit delayed, it was a full flight so I had to take a different flight," Kristoff explained. "I don't think that I really needed it because I've done it 14 times in my career before [seven participations and seven recons]. I think it is more or less the same. I know there are a few new sections, which I don't know but they're pretty early so the rest I will remember."
Kristoff will be joint leader of the Katusha-Alpecin team with Tony Martin on Sunday.