Alexander Kristoff praised his Katusha teammates as he continued his superb start to the year with victory at the Tour of Oman. Kristoff spoke highly of his lead-out train after they delivered him perfectly to the front at the end of stage 3, edging out Andrea Guardini (Astana) in the sprint.
“We are working every day better and better in the lead-out and I’m very happy with how it is going,” Kristoff said before stepping on the podium to receive his stage winner’s trophy. “Before I was very often alone and that’s much harder. You see this year when I can get in a good position with some legs I can keep the fastest guys behind me.
“We signed Jacopo (Guarnieri) and he is really keeping the lead-out together and before we were blown away in some parts and now we really stick together.”
In 2014, Kristoff took more than three months of racing to take four victories, something that he has managed in less than two weeks this season. That is in part to his performance at the Tour of Qatar where he took three stage wins and finished second overall. Despite this, Kristoff still believes that there is work to do on his sprint if he hopes to take it to the ‘faster’ guys more often.
“Maybe sometimes I can be the fastest guy but not always,” he said modestly. “Cavendish, Greipel, Kittel and Guardini, when they’re in top shape I know that these guys are hard to beat. I know I want to improve my sprint and I have been training on this also, not only in the classics. I want to be good at two things, sprinting and classics.”
The team will now look to the climbers in the next two stages as the target is a good placing in the general classification. Kristoff is looking to add a fifth victory to that tally before the week is over, and he pointed to the final stage as an opportunity to do that but admits that his form in the climbs is still a worry to him after he lost 1:31 to Fabian Cancellara on stage 2 - someone he hopes to keep up with over the hills in the coming months.
“I am very happy about the sprints. I was hoping to be a bit better yesterday in the climbs so there I must work a bit more,” he said. “(The) last day is a day that is possible but we still have to pass the climbs and yesterday that was too hard for me so I’m a little bit worried. Now it is two days for the climbers and we have Dani Moreno in a good position and Purito (Joaquim Rodríguez) can climb so we have guys for these days and we will try again on the last stage.”
There will be little break for Kristoff after Oman as he heads back to Europe for the double-header of Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, followed by Paris-Nice. He will look to defend his Milan-San Remo title. “That’s the goal,” he said. “But of course I know it is not easy to win back to back. I have had a really good start and things look very good so I hope that I can continue like this.”
Kristoff will ride a packed racing schedule in March and April as he tries to hone his form for the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix. He went on to say that his performance in the opening weeks of the season should not be an indicator as to how he goes in Belgium. “This is something different to the classics. Yesterday I was not there so I think the classics will be really hard but I hope to improve in the climbs in the next months.”