Alexander Kristoff will leave Katusha-Alpecin to race for UAE Team Emirates for 2018 and 2019. The former Milan-San Remo winner has struggled this season, failing to win a stage at the Tour de France, but he hit back by winning the RideLondon Surrey Classic on Sunday.
UAE Team Emirates announced it had reached a deal with Kristoff via brief message posted on social media.
It seems the Norwegian has signed a pre-contract, with the team saying "the definitive contract will be signed in the next few weeks, after some routine tests by the team's medical staff."
Kristoff's move to the UAE Team Emirates is the first big signing by the Middle East backed team for 2018. The team has been linked to Fabio Aru and Dan Martin for next season but so far only Kristoff has been confirmed.
The arrival of airline sponsor Emirates indicated the team had serious plans about competing at the highest level in the future, and more changes to the team's roster are expected.
Louis Meintjes has been linked to Dimension Data, while Kristoff's arrival would mean more competition in the team for other sprinters like Ben Swift and Andrea Guardini, who with Rui Costa and Diego Ulissi are all under contract for 2018, and Sacha Modolo who is at the end of his.
Kristoff revealed that his agent was talking to several teams during the Tour de France, indicating that he was ready to leave Katusha-Alpecin after a tense spring and a lack of success in sprints and the Classics. Kristoff turned 30 last week and has been a professional for 11 years, the last six with the Katusha team. He won Milan-San Remo in 2014 and the Tour of Flanders in 2015 and has over 60 victories on his palmares.
This year Kristoff won three stages at the Tour of Oman but then crashed at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. He won the bunch sprint for fourth at Milan-San Remo and won the sprint for fifth place at the Tour of Flanders but seemed to be lacking something in the key moments of the Classics and in the sprints, with his only victory on stage 2 of Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde.
He bounced back to win the prestigious Eschborn-Frankfurt race in Germany but his relationships with the Katusha-Alpecin management reached a low point when he was accused of being 'too heavy'.
"I take it with a pinch of salt. Obviously, I could have been a little lighter, but I'm going to perform in flat races and then this is not so important," Kristoff said, hitting back.
"I do not see why they are going to be mad at me, because I'm the only one who has performed in Katusha. Of seven victories in the team, I have six. But there has been a stressed mood in the team this year."
The internal spat continued in June with Katusha-Alpecin opting not to select Kristoff's preferred domestique and lead-out man Michael Mørkøv for the Tour de France. Kristoff finished second to Arnaud Démare on stage 4 of the Tour de France and was fourth on two other stages and fifth in the sprint on the Champs Élyseés but seemed unhappy at Katusha-Alpecin after the team offered him a far lower contract than his reported current deal of two million Euro per season.
Kristoff admitted to the Norwegian media in Paris that he had agreed to terms with a new team for 2018 but declined to confirm it was UAE Team Emirates.
"I'm looking forward to next year. It will be good," Kristoff told the VG newspaper and Norwegian television.