Norway's Alexander Kristoff believes that his best shot at winning the world title in the elite men’s road race at the World Championships in Richmond will come from a bunch sprint, rather than a largely predicted move from the classics specialists.
“I hope it will come down to a sprint,” Kristoff told Cyclingnews at the Grands Prix Cyclistes in Quebec last weekend. “I think that would suit me quite well because the finish of the course is quite hard and then flat at the end on the top of the last climb, so I hope it’s a sprint.”
Many riders are predicting that the race will suit classics specialists because of the event’s distance at 259.2km, and because the 16.2km urban circuit ends with a succession of three climbs over Libby Hill, 23rd Street and Governor’s Street before finishing on a flat run in to the line.
As a results, some of the favourites tipped for the championship course include riders like defending champion Michal Kwiatkowski (Poland), Peter Sagan (Slovakia), Michael Matthews (Australia), Greg Van Avermaet and Philippe Gilbert (Belgium), Alejandro Valverde (Spain), Zdenek Stybar (Czech Republic) and Geraint Thomas (Great Britain), among others, and of course, Kristoff is in that mix, too, having won Milan-San Remo and Tour of Flanders.
“Yes, that’s my plan [to win the World Championships] but the course suits many guys who are going to be there,” Kristoff said. “There are many guys who can win and many of the teams will have a lot of guys.”
Nations that will field a full team of nine include Spain, Great Britain, Colombia, Italy, France, Australia, Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and Czech Republic. This year, Norway will start six riders in Richmond, something of a novelty considering the nation has usually only lined up with three.
Kristoff will have five riders at his disposal with Edvald Boasson-Hagen, Sven Erik Bystrom, Lars Petter Nordhaug, Vergard Stake Leangen and Vergard Breen. Kristoff is thus expecting his teammates to keep the field together for the run-in to the finish line.
“This year, Norway at least has six guys, so we have a whole team compared to three riders, which was normal for us before,” Kristoff said. “That will make us a little bit stronger as a squad, but we will see what happens.
“The team is built around me and we will try as much as possible to try to control the race. For sure there will be other teams, for example Germany, that will have the same interests I think, so hopefully we can work together with other teams and keep the race under control.”
Kristoff’s season has been hugely successful with stage wins at the Tour of Qatar, Tour of Oman, Paris-Nice, Three Days of De Panne, and in the classics he took victories at Tour of Flanders and Scheldeprijs, along with podium finishes at Milan-San Remo and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne.
He increased his victory count in stages at Tour of Norway, Tour des Fjords and Tour de Suisse, and although he didn’t win a stage at the Tour de France, he did place third in stage 15 in Valence and stage 21 in Paris.
In August, he ramped up his preparation for the World Championships with a stage win at the Arctic Race of Norway, second at Vattenfall Cyclassics, a win at Grand Prix Ouest-Plouay and third place at the Grand Prix Cycliste de Quebec City.
“I’ve been trying to get in to this shape since after the Tour de France and the goal for this part of the season is the Worlds,” Kristoff said. “I hope to be up there to fight for the win.”