Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) has described his recent run of form at the cobbled Classics as a ‘dream come true’. The Tour of Flanders champion claimed his sixth win in eight days after taking victory from a crash-reduced group at Scheldeprijs. Aside from the final time trial at the Three Days of De Panne, Kristoff has won everything he has entered in the past week – including the overall classification in De Panne.
“It’s a dream come true. If you see my results it’s quite steady, from year to year a little bit better and not a big jump,” Kristoff said during his post-race press conference. “I’m little bit surprised by how this run is going… I didn’t expect it. When I turned pro it was really difficult for me, I was not even close. I think it was my first top 10 result as a pro in this race actually.” [Kristoff took 10th at Scheldeprijs in 2010 – ed].”
The last few days have been a whirlwind for Kristoff, following his Tour of Flanders victory. He had a chance to rest up on Monday but took some time out of his schedule to meet his fan club at Kafee Sultan in Wervik, down the road from the team’s hotel in Kortrijk. The media attention has been significantly higher too and the Belgian press have been dubbing him the next Tom Boonen, but three days on from his commanding win in Oudenaarde the result is still sinking in.
“I cannot really describe how big it feels but for me it was a childhood dream that came true,” said Kristoff. “I think it will be even bigger when I look back at my career and see this race again. In the future it will be a great memory, like when I got my bronze medal at the Olympics. At the time it didn’t feel so big but when I look back it was a big moment in my career and my life.”
Kristoff’s season tally now stands at 11 victories, just three less than he scored in the whole of 2014. Of the WorldTour riders, only Richie Porte (Team Sky) can get close with his seven wins. It’s an astonishing run of form but, according to Kristoff’s coach, there is still more to come from the Norwegian - an ominous thought for his rivals. He believes that his step up in level is down to the team that surrounds him.
“I think the team do a great job to deliver me into position and keep me out of trouble and also keep me out of the wind so I have fresh legs at the end. That’s also the main difference this year to last year. Last year I was not so much weaker than this year but I had less support in the sprint. Now I have more support in the sprint so then I also get a lot more victories,” he said. “I didn’t have this before so maybe I could have won more.”
Norwegian to rely on team's top form to win Paris-Roubaix
His success this Wednesday has only served to further cement Kristoff as the firm favourite for Paris-Roubaix on Sunday. If he were to win in Roubaix, he would become the first rider in history to win Flanders, Scheldeprijs and Roubaix in the same season. However, Kristoff is reluctant to take on the mantle of favourite. His previous best performance at Paris-Roubaix was ninth place in 2013 and, despite his form, he’s not taking the victory for granted.
“It’s still a long way away and I must do a lot of suffering and I must do everything right to manage to win. Of course it’s not impossible, so I will try,” said Kristoff. “Of course I dream of winning, who doesn’t? If I get podium I will be very happy but if I win then I will be more happy. We will try to win the race, we are on good form the whole team but I know it will be very difficult.”
With still more than half the season remaining, Kristoff has his eyes set on adding to his already impressive list of victories. After Roubaix, Kristoff will take a well-earned break to re-charge his physical and mental batteries before he begins his preparation for the next big goal of the year, the Tour de France. Kristoff won two stages at last year’s race and says that he would like to be in the mix for a jersey this time around.
“I will try for green in the start and I will see if I can be there in the end,” said the Norwegian. “I will have a look during the race at how it is going and how many points I have. I also want to win stages like I did last year so we will for sure try to be in good shape for the Tour. After that it is the World Championships in the US and it is a course that suits me so I will try to get into shape for that.”