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Kristoff aiming to help build Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert into major WorldTour force

TROMSO NORWAY AUGUST 05 Alexander Kristoff of Norway and Team Norway at finish line during the 8th Arctic Race Of Norway 2021 Stage 1 a 1425km stage from Troms to Troms ArcticRace on August 05 2021 in Tromso Norway Photo by Stuart FranklinGetty Images
(Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Alexander Kristoff has said that he wants to help Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert grow into a top WorldTour team upon his move to the Belgian squad following four seasons at UAE Team Emirates.

The Norwegian sprinter, who was a marquee signing for UAE in 2018, has been a major part of the squad's success and growth, taking 14 wins since joining including two Tour de France stages and Gent-Wevelgem.

Now he's hoping to repeat the trick at Intermarché, and he'll return to be the number one within the team following UAE's focus on stage racing and two-time Tour winner Tadej Pogačar.

"I hope I can be one of the major actors there and to help Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert build up the team to be one of the best in the WorldTour," Kristoff told Cyclingnews at the Arctic Race of Norway.

"At the moment they are ranked maybe lower in the WT but they're still a WT team so we want to develop the team and improve."

Kristoff, who is racing for the Norwegian selection in his home country, said that his current trade team had outgrown him, adding that he understands their need to build around Pogačar and other young talents such as Marc Hirschi, Juan Ayuso, and new signing João Almeida.

"UAE has been a really great team and grown really much since I came," he said. "But maybe now it's outgrown me. We have Pogačar who is the big new star winning the Tour for a second time.

"For sure the team must build around him and this year I lost a spot in the Tour because we want to win the GC with him.

"For me to be able to do the Tour and focus on my ambitions, a change in team was the best way for both me and the team but I don't have any regrets or bad emotions about UAE. It's a great team and I wish them the best for the future."

He'll be joined at his new team by compatriot and friend Sven Erik Bystrøm, who also makes the switch from UAE having previously raced alongside Kristoff at Katusha. Along with Kristoff having full leadership of a team more focussed on Classics than stage racing, Bystrøm will also have more of his own opportunities, he said.

"First of all, I want to see how far I can go in the Classics," he said. "The cobbled Classics like Flanders, Gent Wevelgem and these races, with the freedom that I can ride for myself instead of waiting for someone else like a helper. Second of all I want to aim for a stage win in one of the Grand tours. Those are my big ambitions.

"I'm really excited about the move. It will be new ambitions for me. I'll have some more freedoms than I have in UAE. I'm going together with Alex again but it's more like a coincidence actually – I'm not going with him to do all the lead outs and stuff. It's providing me with a lot of opportunities at a little bit of a smaller team than UAE. I'm pretty excited."

The pair will race alongside each other for the rest of their time at UAE, taking on the Tour of Norway, Deutschland Tour, and Eschborn-Frankfurt before teaming up for Norway at the World Championships in Flanders where the 34-year-old will look to grab another medal to go with his silver on home ground in 2017.

For this week, though, the pair and the rest of the six-man Norway squad at the Arctic Race, adding to Kristoff's record five stage wins and battling for the overall with Bystrøm and Andreas Leknessund are the aims.

"I think we can go for a stage. The last day is a possibility but it's also very hard actually," Kristoff said, adding that Friday's second stage to Kilpisjärvi in Finalnd is another suited to him.

"We play with open cards, including myself and Leknessund. We try our best and see where the standings are," added Bystrøm.

 

Daniel joined Cyclingnews as staff writer in 2019 after working freelance at pretty much everywhere in cycling media for seven years.