This time 12 months ago, it seemed as though Alexander Kristoff (Katusha-Alpecin) had forgotten how to lose. After picking up a hat-trick of stage wins at the Tour of Qatar, he then tacked on two more at the Tour of Oman and, as he emerged from the Gulf races, he seemed poised for a repeat of his stunning spring of 2015.
A Classic man's campaign is judged squarely on how he fares on those ardent weekends of late March and early April, however, and Kristoff's early blaze of success was relegated to a mere footnote after he fell short at Milan-San Remo, the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix. The bout of illness that ruled him out of Gent-Wevelgem limited his effectiveness thereafter.
"I think we have more power in the team around me. We miss Jacopo [Guarnieri] for the lead-out, he's gone to FDJ, but we have more guys who can control the race and make sure we get to the sprint," Kristoff said. "In the end, we are not weaker for the sprints. We have more power in the team for controlling races. I'm optimistic."