Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) looked like he could be on for his second consecutive monument victory at the Tour of Flanders, as he tracked down the leading group. It wasn’t to be, the Milan-San Remo winner eventually crossed the line in fifth place.
As the four leaders played cat and mouse, heading into the sprint, a looming Kristoff could be seen in the background. They were tantalisingly close for the Norwegian and his sprint capabilities made him almost certain of crossing the line first, if he could just make it across the gap. However, he ran out of road and finished eight seconds back on the winner Fabian Cancellara.
“I know I’m good at the long races and if it was longer, maybe I could have been better,” a disappointed Kristoff told Cyclingnews at the finish.
“They were a little bit too strong for me on the Kwaremont but I tried to bridge up a little bit at Paterberg but I went over alone and I saw Terpstra was on the way up to me so I waited for him so we could try together and we worked together. I think we were actually coming closer but not fast enough,” said Kristoff.
This year’s event is Kristoff’s third attempt at the elite race. The Katusha rider finished fourth in last year’s event, after winning the bunch sprint behind the escapees. He has been a strong and promising performer in the peloton for a few years now, as a multiple time national champion and his bronze medal at the Olympic Games in 2012.
Kristoff had a faltering start to this season and missed out on a number of sprint opportunities, but he surpassed all expectations when he won at Milan-San Remo two weeks ago. Unlike many of the riders, he’s been in Belgium since the day after that victory preparing for the race. He came into Sunday’s races as one of the favourites for victory, but perhaps it was his confidence that proved to be his downfall this time around.
“I was maybe a little bit too optimistic and maybe I should have taken it a little bit easier so I could follow (Cancellara) but I was already on the limit when he attacked and I just had to follow in the second group. I tried on the Paterberg but I had good legs and nobody followed. I had good legs but they weren’t good enough.”
The Norwegian will be looking to get back to winning ways at Scheldeprijs on Wednesday. He won’t be the only one looking to avenge Sunday with Tom Boonen and Peter Sagan in the starting line-up. Marcel Kittel, Andrea Guardini and Theo Bos will also be out to notch up a spring victory. Mark Cavendish won’t be riding, as he continues to suffer from a stomach illness.