Alexander Kristoff came painfully close to winning the world road race title on home soil only to be pipped by two-time defending champion Peter Sagan. A month on, Kristoff has replayed the day a thousand times in his head but says that he has no regrets about his ride in Bergen.
Though, it is still clear how bitter a bitter a blow it was to miss out on that fabled rainbow jersey, which would have no doubt been the biggest victory of his career.
"It was a matter of a few inches," Kristoff explained in an interview with Gazzetta dello Sport. "I've been thinking a thousand times, but I have nothing to regret. I do not think I made any mistakes. I did not miss anything, but Sagan beat me. But he has won the World Championships three times [in a row], which has never happened to anyone, meaning he is the strongest in the world. A few inches ... I wanted that jersey."
There is little time to dwell on the season past with a new season with a new squad on the horizon. Good first impressions are a must and Kristoff is eyeing a return to the Classics top step as begins his new career with UAE Team Emirates next season. The Norwegian, who will begin his season at the Dubai Tour in February, also hopes to retain the European title he won in Herning earlier this year.
Kristoff is one of only five current riders to have victories in two different Monuments after winning Milan-San Remo in 2014 and the Tour of Flanders the following year. Since winning Flanders, Kristoff has not been back on the podium at any of cycling's biggest one-day races. With his new team, the Monuments will once again form the crux of his season.
"San Remo will be the first major goal of 2018. I should debut in Dubai, then in March I will be in Paris-Nice," said Kristoff. "My dream is to win Roubaix, but I'm aware that I've never made the most of this race [his best result was ninth in 2013 –ed]. After San Remo I will go to Flanders. I think that the victory at Flanders was the strongest day of my life. Then I would like to defend the European champion jersey. The World Championship, however, is too hard, impossible. "
After finishing riding his final event in Katusha colours at the start of October, Kristoff has been enjoying his off-season. He explained to Gazzetta dello Sport that he had already begun preparation work in the gym for next season with a view to heading abroad for warm-weather training towards the end of the year.
Kristoff's move to the UAE Team Emirates squad was signed at the start of August after some deliberation during the Tour de France. Kristoff has spent the past six seasons with the Katusha-Alpecin after moving to the Russian-registered team (now Swiss) from BMC Racing in 2012. With the team interested in Marcel Kittel for the new season, Kristoff opted for a change in scenery rather than stay put.
"After so many years, I thought it was time to change," he said. "Certainly I will have new motivations, and I will have to have a better performance. This change will help me to return to winning important races. Even having new teammates, new people around, will be an important stimulus. Of course, it's a big change, but I'm sure I'm coming to a strong team, made up of great riders, [Fabio] Aru and everyone else. We will be competitive on all terrain."