Alexander Kristoff didn't have the legs to follow the wining move at the Tour of Flanders but the Katusha rider fought to the end in his title defence, winning the group sprint for fourth place last Sunday. Fast-foward to Scheldeprijs and it was a different story with the 2015 winner explaining post-race that miscommunication in the finale from his leadout train impeded his chances for victory
"Perhaps we made things a little too complicated today. In this final it is so narrow it’s hard just to be in the front. We had a plan to be first team into the 90-degree corner, but that did not happen, so in the end we were too far away," said Kristoff after a wet edition of the sprinters' classic.
Kristoff added that while leadout man Jacopo Guarnieri was in position, he was confused by the whearabouts of Michael Mørkøv inside the final kilometre.
"Jacopo made it to the front and I was on his wheel, but at one point just before that, Mørkøv came between us, but wasn’t exactly following the moves, so all of us didn’t make it to the front. In truth Jacopo was in a good position and could have done the sprint himself, because I was stuck behind. I sprinted with what I could but at 200 meters I was finished," he said.
The Norwegian finished the race in 15th place with Guarnieri three seconds back in 26th place, while Mørkøv was back in 71st place at 29 seconds to the winner, Marcel Kittel (Etixx-Quick Step).
"I am disappointed, of course, because I won here last year and this is probably my worst result. We look forward to Sunday," said Kristoff who has enjoyed wins at the Tour of Oman, Qatar, and Three Days de Panne in 2016.
While Kristoff has received the plaudits for his 20 victories in 2015 and six so far in 2016, 28-year-old Guarnieri has gone about his business quietly but effectively. With the team losing Luca Paolini due to a cocaine positive during last year's Tour de France, Katusha brought in Mørkøv to strengthen Kristoff's lead out train which had quickly gotten up to speed in 2016 with Scheldeprijs the first major mishap for the men in red.
"We tried to come from behind and we managed to do it with 2 km to go – we were right behind Etixx. But Alex and Mørkøv did not follow. It’s not always easy to organize and make this happen," said Guarnieri of how he saw the finale.
"I waited in the last corner to see if Alex was coming and he reached me at 800 meters to go. I tried to bridge him up to the front, but he had spent a lot of energy fighting for position so we come back home with no result."
"Like we say in Italy, 'It’s not always Sunday’ so we cannot always win, but I think our train is working well and we’d like to continue on like this. Now we look forward and hope to do something in Paris-Roubaix," he added.