Alexander Kristoff’s track record at Paris-Roubaix is not one that would put him among the favourites on Sunday but the Katusha rider’s recent run of form has placed him overwhelmingly as one of the riders to watch. Since his Tour of Flanders victory, the media attention for Kristoff has visibly spiked, and he was pulled from pillar to post during the Paris-Roubaix team presentation in Compiegne on Saturday afternoon.
However the Norwegian is taking it all in his stride and says that the favourite tag has not put any additional pressure on his shoulders.
“I’m one of the big favourites but there are many others also. I don’t have more pressure than normal. I’m normally the captain of Katusha and that’s my pressure and any more than that it is not,” he said moments before being introduced to the crowd.
When asked if he was worried that his rivals would be watching his every move, he said that it would play into his hands rather than work against him. “If everybody follows me then I will be happy because then I will be in the front group. I’m more scared that someone will attack away from me than follow me,” said Kristoff.
The most successful rider of the spring
Kristoff is far and away the most successful rider this season with 11 victories in 30 days of racing, compared to the seven that second placed rider Richie Porte (Team Sky) has notched up. To put that number into perspective, Kristoff won a total of 14 races in the whole of last year. More than half of those victories have come in the last two weeks, a run that has people wondering if he can add his name to those who have obtained the illustrious Flanders-Roubaix double. However, with ninth his best performance two years ago, Kristoff reiterated his stance that his recent success is no indication that he’ll be standing on the top step of the podium this Sunday.
“I hope to be fighting for my 12th victory but like I said many times, I’ve never felt so strong in Roubaix, so it will be difficult. I always felt stronger in the Tour of Flanders, on the cobbled climbs, rather than the flat cobbles,” he explained. “It is quite different because you don’t have the climbs here. Still, it’s hard in other ways you have all the shaking over many hours. It’s more a steady, hard pace and in Flanders it is a bit more maximum, and then you can rest and then it’s maximum again. Still, there are many guys who can win both and I hope that I can be one of those guys.”
“We will see, the form is great, I’ve won a lot of races lately and we will try again tomorrow. I think I must still have a really good day and nobody slips away so that I can fight for the win.”
Despite Kristoff being firmly positioned on the list of the race favourites, on paper, this year’s Paris-Roubaix remains as wide open as ever. Only two former winners will be on the start line: Johan Vansummeren, who will be riding with Ag2r-La Mondiale this season, and defending champion Niki Terpstra. Kristoff puts the Etixx-QuickStep rider among his biggest challengers but he says the list of potential contenders is long.
“There will be many dangerous opponents, I don’t really have one,” he said. “For sure, Niki Terpstra won last year, Zdenek Stybar and Etixx are strong, Sky are strong, Vanmarcke, Degenkolb and sure there are many more. If Greipel is going like he was in Flanders he could also be there in the final and do a good sprint. There are many good guys.”
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