The Norwegian was one of the leading favourites to take the first road stage of this year's race but in a frantic finale, in which he and his Katusha team fought tooth and nail with Nacer Bouhanni's Cofidis leadout, he missed out. The Frenchman came away with the stage while Kristoff was forced to settle for 11th, almost coming down inside the last 200 metres after touching wheels with his leadout man.
"There was a fight with me and Bouhanni to get the wheel of my teammate Jacopo Guarnieri. Bouhanni was fighting with me but I managed to get the wheel," Kristoff said at the finish is Saint-Vulbas.
The ‘fight’ Kristoff was referencing saw riders from Cofidis and Katusha literally go head-to-head with at least two headbutts coming from the Cofidis sprint train. At least one was directed the other way whilst another Katusha head nudge, on an Orica-GreenEdge rider, nearly sent defending champion Chris Froome tumbling.
"I wanted to start my sprint but my wheel touched my teammate's and I almost crashed again - then my sprint was over," Kristoff said. "At least I didn't crash but I don't really know what happened. I felt okay but that was shit.
"The team was good and they took the lead but in the end I had some bad luck. I felt good in the sprint and I had a lot of power to give but when I almost crashed with 200 meters to go it was difficult. It was a hectic final. I went on the same side as the others, then I touched wheels and I almost crashed."
Kristoff came into the Dauphiné after taking a stage win in the Tour of California in May. The Norwegian is a prime candidate for stage wins in the Tour de France and potentially the green jersey but his ambitions are clear. At the start of the stage he told Cyclingnews that winning in the Dauphiné would breed confidence for him and his team.
"I was good at California and won a stage there, and that's the goal here. There are a few sprinters here but not too many, so hopefully I can manage it," he said.
"There’s Bouhanni and he’s racing in his home country and for sure he wants to perform. There are other guys and it won't be easy but there's a good chance.
"If you can perform here then you can perform at the Tour. It's a real test before July and it gives you information on if you're in a good shape or if you need to work more. We'll see how I am but there are maybe one or two stages more for the sprinters."
Thank you for signing up to Cycling News. You will receive a verification email shortly.
There was a problem. Please refresh the page and try again.