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Kristoff: Trentin can help make the difference against Van Aert and Van der Poel

Norwegian Alexander Kristoff of UAE Team Emirates rides during the GentWevelgem In Flanders Fields cycling race 2515 km from Deinze near Gent to Wevelgem on March 31 2019 Photo by DIRK WAEM BELGA AFP Belgium OUT Photo credit should read DIRK WAEMAFP via Getty Images
(Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Alexander Kristoff enjoyed a successful 2020 with a stage win at the Tour de France, a day in yellow and third place in the Tour of Flanders but the 33-year-old believes the addition of Matteo Trentin into the UAE Team Emirates line-up will boost his own Classics chances.

In the last few years, Kristoff has cut an isolated figure for his team in the Spring races - although Fernando Gaviria was instrumental in his 2019 Gent-Wevelgem win - but with UAE Team Emirates recruiting Trentin from the defunct CCC team, Kristoff finally has the foil he has been looking for.

At the 2020 Tour of Flanders, for example, Kristoff was forced to fend for himself, and while the Norwegian admits that Julian Alaphilippe, Wout Van Aert and Mathieu van der Poel were on another level, the former Milan-San Remo and Flanders winner thinks that he and Trentin can dovetail together in the major one-day races and combine to take on the next generation of Classics stars.

“Those three were on another level and then there was a group behind that was trying but we weren’t competitive against the first group. Alaphilippe crashed and I had a chance for third. I hope that this year we can be closer and that’s my dream scenario. With Matteo, I now have one extra teammate in the finale who can hopefully make a difference,” Kristoff said during a media day at the UAE Team Emirates training camp.

“Our Classics team has been strengthened with Trentin coming in and I look forward to working with him. He can be another guy for the final and I remember when I had Luca Paolini as a teammate and it was really helpful to have more guys in the final. Hopefully, we can work together and he’s a huge name for the Classics.”

At 33, Kristoff is closer to the end of his career than the start but the canny all-rounder still has the ability to strike out and take major wins, as he showed in Nice during the Tour de France last year. His best seasons came between 2014 and 2015, when he won his two Monuments, but he has consistently provided his teams with major wins throughout his career. He puts his consistency down to luck but also a willingness to remain motivated and hardworking during the winter months.

“I still dream of winning big races but if I don’t have that level then I hope that I can still help the younger generation achieve big victories in the team. When I was younger I remember how important Paolini was to me for getting me to the right spot for the sprints. If I can do something similar, that would be great in the final years of my career. In 2015, I felt unbeatable and I felt that everything was going my way. I won about 20 races that year. I hope that I still have some good years but it might be hard to top that season.”

“I’ve been lucky not to get sick or really injured in my career so far. I’ve never had a point in my career when I’ve had to stop for months. I’ve never had to stop for months and miss training and I’ve never broken anything, knock on wood, so I’m lucky that way. I also train consistently each year and have done the same training. Now there’s a younger generation coming up and it’s getting harder but I still managed to pull off one good win last year.”

Along with targeting the Spring Classics, the Norwegian has also been named on the long-list for the Tour de France. Experts believe that there are potentially eight stages for the sprinters in this year’s race and while Kristoff is cautiously optimistic he knows that the team’s main focus will be on securing Tadej Pogacar’s second straight overall win in Paris.

“The long-list for the Tour has 11 names on there so it’s not 100 per cent sure that I’ll be there. We have the overall winner from last year so we’ll try and defend that with Tadej. We’ll see if I get a spot or not. If I’m there then for sure I’ll try and win stages and contribute to keeping him safe, and go for stages when I have the chance. 

"If I go to the Tour then I probably won’t have much support in the sprints so maybe it will be like in 2020, good on the stage that I won and quite good on the last stage but not really there for the other sprints. It’s a bit of a gamble if you’re in the Tour alone but 2020 was a success and if I get the chance to ride the Tour again then I will be very happy,” he said.