Alexander Kristoff’s first ever monument win at Milan-San Remo was due to having both the biggest reserve of energy at the finish line and a strong team who dropped him off at end of the 294km race to perfection.
In the final kilometres of La Primavera, Katusha teammate Luca Paolini drove the remnants of the peloton, which left Milan almost seven hours earlier, into San Remo to see Kristoff become the first Norwegian to win the race in its 105th edition.
"The team did incredible work. Katusha was absolutely amazing during the entire race - each of my teammates was great. Luca Paolini helped me a lot in the final to get a good position for the sprint. It was a very difficult and unpredictable sprint. A sprint after 300km is different from one after 200km," said Kristoff after the race whose previous best placing at the race was eighth last year.
"Normally I don't lose much power even on a long stage. I saw [Mark] Cavendish, who started his sprint, so I started mine, too. For the last 150 meters I had super power and was able to hold the others off. I was super happy when I saw I'd taken the win. It was the best moment in my life. Right now I'm enjoying this moment and I'm super happy. It's the highlight of my career.
Kristoff’s best result prior to the first monument of 2014 was claiming the bronze medal in the road race at the 2012 London Olympics. The win is Katusha’s third monument after Joaquim Rodriguez’s two wins at Il Lombardi in 2013 and 2012.
The team manager of Katusha, Viacheslav Ekimov, was full of praise for the two-time Norwegian road race champion who joined the Russian squad in 2012. "Alexander is a real warrior. He is always motivated and he never complains. He always does his job properly. And he really deserved a win like this, as well as the whole Katusha Team. We were motivated today to fight for the good result. Did we think about the victory? Why not? We had a strong team and a strong leader. I saw some tough moments on the Poggio, but then I saw Paolini taking care of Kristoff on the flats and I figured it was today or never for a big win.
"This victory is especially important for our team and Russian cycling. Kristoff is not a Russian rider but our team is a Russian team and this victory brings a great motivation for our youth. In taking such a victory, Katusha confirms the status of the first Russian professional team and this is the most important thing."
Paolini, who finished over one minute behind Kristoff in 33rd place, was overjoyed by his teammate’s victory.
"I feel like a winner too. Alex’s win is not just thanks to me, but to the entire team. They protected us throughout the day. He's fast [and] when I saw he was still there on the Poggio, we gave everything for him. I was happy to work for him."