Kristoff eager to show of new European champion's jersey
Norwegian showing fine form after disappointing Tour de France
Alexander Kristoff claimed his second victory in a row, adding the European Championships road race title to his win in the RideLondon Classic last weekend. The Norwegian edged out Italian Elia Viviani in a photo finish in Herning, Denmark with Dutchman Moreno Hofland farther behind in third.
It was only the second year of the elite men's race in the European Championships, which were previously reserved for women and espoirs. Last year, Peter Sagan won the road title, but never once wore the jersey because he was the world champion for the one race he competed in - the Eneco Tour - in 2016 before repeating as the rainbow jersey holder.
Kristoff expects to show off the distinctive white and blue jersey more than Sagan.
"We haven't seen so much the jersey since Sagan was world champion. So it will be nice to show it. I will look forward to wearing it," Kristoff said.
Although he would love to win the rainbow jersey, the Norwegian was pessimistic that he could win on the hilly course at home in Bergen, Norway.
"I think the Worlds is quite a bit harder than the course today," Kristoff pointed out.
"For sure it's going to be really tough for me to win there. But there's a chance. If the shape is really good I think I have a shot. But we also have [Edvald] Boasson Hagen, who I think it might suit slightly better. I think late attacks will be dangerous in the world championships."
Boasson Hagen was Kristoff's foil in the race on Sunday, too, attacking inside the final three kilometres, and then going solo away from his two companions with one kilometre to go. He nearly held off the bunch but was reeled in by a strong Italian team leading out for Viviani.
"Edvald did a really good attack in the end, and he almost won. So we had a good tactic there," Kristoff said.
"We saw that in all the other races late attacks made it to the final, so we wanted to try it with Edvald because we know he's a strong guy who can manage to do such a thing. It almost worked. In the end, he was just caught with 300 metres to go. Then I managed to take the sprint - that's great teamwork."
Kristoff opened up the sprint, but Viviani tried to speed through on his right next to the barriers. The two bumped with 50 metres to go, and when Viviani saw he'd been edged out, he had some words for Kristoff, who returned the sentiment in hand gestures.
"I started a bit earlier than [Viviani] and I went to the right side. Then he tried to come on the inside," Kristoff said.
"I didn't feel like I did anything wrong, but he tried to take a small hole. I didn't let him take the hole. He didn't really have the space to pass me there. In the end, it was really close. I think he was disappointed, but I did not feel like I did anything wrong, I felt my sprint was more or less straight."
Cooler heads prevailed, and by the press conference, Viviani said that he made the decision to accelerate on the right and then couldn't change his mind. "I touched (Kristoff) with 50 metres to go but - it's too late. It was really close. I'm really disappointed to lose the European championship by less than the width of a tubular," Viviani said.
Kristoff started the season strongly, with one stage win in the Etoile de Besseges, a hat-trick in Tour of Oman, a stage in the Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde, but just missed the podium in Milan-San Remo and was out of the results in the Cobbled Classics. He won the Eschborn-Frankfurt but never found any luck in the Tour de France where his best finish was second in Vittel behind Arnaud Demare.
Winning the European title didn't quite make up for his disappointing Tour de France.
"For sure, this doesn't make me win in the Tour, that's done and I didn't win there. But it's always nice to win races. I won in London last Sunday, and I won here. For sure it definitely helps my confidence in the sprint."
"In the Tour, I missed out on many chances and I was not happy with my Tour. Now I'm more happy with my season. It was a great result today and I will always remember this day and look back on it."
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