Kristoff considers retirement if results don't come
Norwegian wants to start winning with new Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert team
Alexander Kristoff had the worst season of his career in 2021 and says if the results don't start to come with his new Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux team, 2022 could be his last.
Last year with UAE Team Emirates, Kristoff missed out on a Grand Tour for the first time since his neo-pro season in 2010. He racked up only two victories - two stages of the Pro Series Deutschland Tour.
It was hardly up to the level of a former winner of Milan-San Remo and Tour of Flanders and a four-time Tour de France stage winner, who tallied 20 victories in 2015. The Norwegian, who turns 35 in July, wants to win races again.
"It depends on how things go this year," Kristoff told Norwegian station TV2 (opens in new tab). "I envision continuing for several years but I have to be at an appropriate level. Last year wasn't good enough. I feel the motivation is there to do the job for another couple of years. I'm not struggling with motivation. There's more to having fun.
"The most important thing is to start winning some races again and pick up more points."
Kristoff has spent the past two weeks in Gran Canaria on a private training camp before joining his new team in Benidorm this weekend, and says he has been on track and healthy so far.
Last year, a crash ruined his chances in the opening race at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and then an illness hampered his Classics campaign.
"I got the flu before the Classics last year and it ruined a little bit, but I was in good shape again in the fall. But I wasn't quite at the level I've been before."
It is a building year for the Belgian outfit, who are in their second season at the WorldTour level. Kristoff was an important addition along with fellow Norwegian Sven Erik Bystrøm, but Intermarché's roster is not nearly as well appointed as those he enjoyed at UAE and before that, Katusha, but Kristoff is positive about the organisation.
"I think it works well," he said. "Sports director Valerio Piva, whom I know from the Katusha era, is very well organized. There are things in order. And sports director Aike Visbeek, who was previously in Sunweb, is a very structured type. There is a good plan for things and the equipment, so I am very happy so far."
Kristoff will begin his season at the Mallorca Challenge at the end of January before heading to the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana and Volta ao Algarve in February. He will lead the team at the opening weekend of the Belgian Classics at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne at the end of the month before a debut in Tirreno-Adriatico in March.
Then, the Classics, Tour de Suisse, the Tour de France and the World Championships in Australia are in the plan.
At Intermarché, Kristoff has a director who believes in his abilities. Piva told Cyclingnews in October that he thinks Kristoff's experience could be an advantage against the younger stars like Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) and Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma).
"A Kristoff in good condition and supported by a group of riders in the finale can still have his say. The youth and freshness of those two is to their advantage at this point in time but in the big Monuments it’s often experience that makes the difference. I believe Kristoff can be up there and competitive against them," Piva said.
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Laura Weislo has been with Cyclingnews since 2006 after making a switch from a career in science. As Managing Editor, she coordinates coverage for North American events and global news. As former elite-level road racer who dabbled in cyclo-cross and track, Laura has a passion for all three disciplines. When not working she likes to go camping and explore lesser traveled roads, paths and gravel tracks. Laura's specialises in covering doping, anti-doping, UCI governance and performing data analysis.