Alexander Kristoff told Cyclingnews on Thursday that he believes he is well-suited for the World Championship course in Richmond, and he’s hoping there will be enough teams riding for a bunch sprint to nullify any late attacks.
“I think it suits quite well, but of course it’s a hard final,” he said after riding the course with his team. “The course itself is not too hard, but the final is a bit heavy. I hope I will have the legs to sprint for the victory, but we must make sure it stays together and nobody gets away up the finishing straight.”
The Richmond course includes two short, punchy climbs that come in quick succession in the final four kilometres. Another uphill drag leads to the finishing straight on Broad Street.
Kristoff’s best finish in a World Championship road race came last year in Ponferrada, Spain, where he came in eighth behind winner Michal Kwiatkowski of Poland. Kristoff took the field sprint seven seconds behind the winner, finishing ahead of Germany’s John Degenkolb, France’s Nacer Bouhani and Australia’s Michael Matthews, all of whom have been tabbed as favourites this year.
The 28-year-old’s only other experience in the elite race came in 2010, when he helped fellow Norwegian Thor Hushovd take the win in Geelong, Australia. Kristoff has had his best-ever season this year, however, taking 20 wins so far. He’s hoping to grab his 21st on Sunday in Richmond.
To do that, the winner of this year’s Tour of Fanders and Scheldeprijs will have to overcome the cobbled, Classics-style climbs in the finale while hoping a large group comes to the finish together. With only six riders on the Norwegian team, Kristoff is counting on cooperation from some of the other sprinters’ teams to nullify the inevitable attacks.
“I think there are many teams with the same interest as us,” he said. “We are not the biggest team here. We are six guys. I think for instance like Germany, Australia, France, there are many big teams with the same interest for getting it together for a sprint, so I hope we can do it all together.”
Germany has Andre Greipel on its Worlds roster, France has Bouhani, and Australia will be riding for Matthews. But Belgium’s Tom Boonen told Cyclignnews last week that he doesn’t believe the race will end in a bunch sprint. In last year’s race, Belgian Greg van Avermaet finished fourth in a small group that was one second behind Kwiatkoswki, while Philippe Gilbert finished alone in seventh, four seconds back.
The difficult finish could favour the Belgian pair’s chances again, but Kristoff said the last uphill before the finish could make it hard for a solo rider or small group to stay away.
“It can break things up a little bit,” he said of the final four kilometres. “It’s a hard final with the two small climbs there, but there are not big gaps so that’s a problem. And then still there is this slightly uphill coming to the finish, and it will be hard to keep away there. Belgium has a strong squad with some good guys for getting in attacks, so you never know. I hope we can prevent it.”
Another obstacle will come from Sunday’s weather, which is currently forecast to be in the 70s (Fahrenheit) with 80 percent chance of rain. Kristoff said he’s hoping the wet weather holds off.
“If it’s raining it favours going away I think because it will be easier to split,” he said. “So I hope it will be dry.”