Alexander Kristoff had an excellent lead out from young UAE Team Emirates teammate Jasper Philipsen Tuesday during stage 4 at the Tour de France and found the high-speed sprint sweet spot behind Elia Viviani (Deceuninck-QuickStep), with only a few extra watts, an extra gear and some extra road coming between victory in Nancy and second place behind the Italian.
Kristoff powered down the centre of the road in his all-white colours as Viviani went along the barriers. They hit the line together, but Viviani won with a better bike throw.
"I have to be happy with second, it was a close one. I've managed to beat a lot of good sprinters here today, Viviani was just a bit better but this gives me confidence for the sprints to come," Kristoff said.
Viviani got an armchair ride from his Deceuninck-QuickStep lead-out riders Michael Morkov and Max Richeze but Kristoff also benefitted from superb work from 21-year-old Philipsen, one of the youngest riders in this year's Tour de France, a debutante in the Grand Boucle, but clearly a huge sprinting talent in his own right. He won a stage at the Tour Down Under on his WorldTour debut and won the Under 23 version of Paris-Tours back in 2017. He came up through Axel Merckx's Hagens Berman Axeon development team.
"Sven (Erik Bystrom) and Jasper (Philipsen) did a really good lead-out. We're a really small lead-out unit but today they worked very well, both of them, to put me in the right spot," Kristoff said, praising his teammates and encouraging them for future sprints clearly more important than any regret about second place.
"I didn't use too much energy, so it was all set for me to win, but Viviani was just a bit too fast for me at the end. I was there fighting with him side by side, but he had a small extra gear."
Tour de France sprints are decided by tiny differences which add up to create a winning margin of centimetres on the line. Kristoff kicked himself for not trusting his new, young lead-out man out even more and until closer to the line.
"In the last bend I maybe I jumped too early onto the Deceuninck lead-out train," Kristoff admitted, the sprint flashing back in his mind as he rode the rollers in the shadow of the UAE Team Emirates bus.
"Jasper still had good speed and was still strong and I should have stayed on his wheel longer. But stage 1 was the first time we did a sprint together and so I didn't know how strong he would be today, he surprised me. He's a real talent, he rides on talent and he feels the sprints. He doesn't need any advice from me; he's more than good enough. Now I can't wait until the next Tour de France sprint."