The news of Fernando Gaviria's mid-contract move from Quick-Step Floors to UAE Team Emirates reportedly took the team's main sprinter Alexander Kristoff by surprise. But the Norwegian who moved away from Katusha-Alpecin as the team brought in Marcel Kittel hopes he will still get consideration for the Tour de France as a lead-out man for the Colombian.
In an interview with Procycling.no, Kristoff says the Tour de France is the most important race for the team. Even if the team has limited spots as it may seek the general classification with a rider like Fabio Aru, Kristoff hopes he can earn a spot. "I don't know if anyone else in the team as of today can help Gaviria more than me. But I would prefer to race for my own chances of course," Kristoff said.
The 31-year-old racked up half of the UAE team's WorldTour victories this season, with wins in the Tour of Oman, Abu Dhabi Tour, Eschborn-Frankfurt and the biggest win for a sprinter - the Champs Élysées stage of the Tour de France.
Kristoff says he feels that he is still good enough to win on his own. "I won the best-known sprint of the year, so it's not completely gone yet," he says, "But there are always strong new riders, so sometimes you have to step down and become a lead-out. I'm a little unsure if I'm ready for that. But if the team sends me to the Tour, I would like to make it as good as possible. It does not increase your market value to do a poor job."
In 2017, Kristoff faced a similar prospect when Kittel's move to Katusha-Alpecin became known. Rather than compete with the German, Kristoff opted to move to UAE despite the pair being on good terms. "I would have soon become a second-sprinter to him or part of his train at the Tour. That's not what I wanted."
He's always been more of a power sprinter than the quickest, and has never been as prolific as riders like Gaviria or Kittel when it comes to the Grand Tours. What he might lack in pure speed, he more than makes up for in strength. In this year's Tour, when the other top sprinters like Gaviria, Mark Cavendish, Andre Greipel, Kittel and Dylan Groenewegen dropped out in the Alpine stages, Kristoff was just starting to hit his stride, and scored two stage podiums before winning the final stage.
Since joining the WorldTour in 2010 with BMC, Kristoff has amassed 70 victories, including Milan-San Remo and two Tour de France stages in 2014, the Tour of Flanders and Scheldeprijs in 2015, and that satisfying Tour stage win this year.
When it comes to the Classics, Kristoff might face less competition from Gaviria, with the possible exception of Milan-San Remo. The 24-year-old Gaviria is still developing as a Classics rider, finishing fifth in the Italian Monument in 2017, and winning the 2017 Kampioenschap van Vlaanderen and Paris-Tours in 2016.
Kristoff said the calendars are still yet to be decided.