Alexander Kristoff kept the wins flowing during what has undoubtedly been Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert's best spring campaign to date on Wednesday, soloing to victory at Scheldeprijs to win the race for the second time in his career.
The Norwegian's victory, Intermarché's fourth of the year, comes less than two weeks after his teammate Biniam Girmay sprinted to the team's biggest Classics win since 2016 at Gent-Wevelgem.
Kristoff, who attacked 7.5km out on Scheldeprijs' final cobbled sector rather than rely on his sprint in the small lead group, said later that he and his team can be proud of their spring regardless of what comes later this season.
"We are having a very good season at the moment," he said in the post-race press conference. "No matter what happens during the rest of the year, I think I can already say that in any case, we can be proud of what we have achieved at least during this period of the Classics.
"We all work very well together. We have a good team for this kind of race, specifically," he added. "It's a smaller team than UAE but, as a rider who aims for the Classics, it's not really a step back.
"UAE is very much focussed on the Tour de France, for example, and less on the Classics. Conversely, this period is super important for our team. I also have, without a doubt, more importance here."
Scheldeprijs was the first time in his pro career that Kristoff had gone solo to win a race, rather than taking victory in a sprint of some description. "It's a different feeling from sprints because in the final stretch you're pretty sure you're going to win," he said.
The race was one of attrition, and not just due to crashes which have plagued it in the past. Rain and crosswinds hit the peloton, splitting it up as the riders rode through Zeeland. An elite front group eventually formed, with Kristoff racing alongside other top sprinters Sam Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe) and the Alpecin-Fenix duo of Jasper Philipsen and Tim Merlier.
The 14-man group were clear heading into the final 15km, by which point the attacks had started to fly. Move after move was chased down, and in the end it was Kristoff who jumped away for good, moving clear on the Broekstraat cobbles en route to victory.
"It was a tough race," he said. "Every time a Bora-Hansgrohe or Alpecin-Fenix rider attacked, I knew I had to go, otherwise we would never have seen them again. I had to chase three times on the last lap and I was really suffering.
"It was getting really hard so once I got to the cobblestone sector, I wanted to give it a try and see if maybe I could get away. The idea was to go with one or two guys. Nobody followed, so I gave everything I had. I had good legs in the final, even though we gave everything all day. It's nice to arrive solo, that's pretty special.
"I'm normally a slow starter. But today I was up to speed. Thanks to the help of Gerben Thyssen I was with the first group when fans were drawn. Unfortunately he fell, so I had to do it alone. Fortunately, I was able to finish."
Kristoff's attention will now turn to Paris-Roubaix on April 17. The Flanders and San Remo champion will be looking to add the final cobbled Classic of 2022 to his lengthy palmarès to round off Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert's spring with their biggest success yet.
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Daniel Ostanek is production editor at Cyclingnews, having joined in 2017 as a freelance contributor and later being hired as staff writer. Before Cyclingnews, he was published in numerous publications around the cycling world, including Procycling, CyclingWeekly, CyclingTips, Cyclist, and Rouleur, among others. As well as reporting and writing news and features, Daniel runs the 'How to watch' content throughout the season.
Daniel has reported from the world's top races, including the Tour de France, and has interviewed a number of the sport's biggest stars, including Egan Bernal, Wout van Aert, Remco Evenepoel, Mark Cavendish, and Anna van der Breggen. Daniel rides a 2002 Landbouwkrediet Colnago C40 and his favourite races are Strade Bianche and the Vuelta a España.
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