Alexander Kristoff came away from Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne with exactly the same result he had done 12 months previously. After finishing second behind Mark Cavendish in the bunch sprint last time out, Kristoff won this year's sprint, though Jasper Stuyven was already across the line celebrating his solo victory.
The race, usually amenable to the sprinters, was a less controlled affair than anticipated, partly due to the windy conditions. Kristoff and fellow sprinters at times found themselves adrift of the leading group in splits and though they did chase down a large select group in the later stages, Stuyven had already disappeared from it.
"For sure it was too bad it wasn't for the win, but we did a good chase, with other teams, and unfortunately Jasper was too strong," Kristoff told a group of reporters before a trip to the podium. "He just about stayed away and we couldn't do much about it.
"Today was second place like last year. Last year I lost the sprint, this year I won the sprint, but Cavendish was not here this year, so it's hard to know if I'm better or worse."
Kristoff was comparing himself to last year and at this stage it's looking remarkably similar. A blistering start once again saw him win three stages at the Tour of Qatar and he went one better at the Tour of Oman with two, before going on to repeat his second place at Kuurne.
"Yesterday I was disappointed – maybe it could have been a different story if we could have chased at the front of the pack rather than behind the pack," he said of his showing at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, where a broken back wheel cut him adrift with 35km to go.
That said, Kristoff never expected – nor wanted – to be in peak condition for this opening Classics weekend in Belgium. He reckons his form is about the same as it was 12 months ago, which, given he went on to win the Tour of Flanders, bodes pretty well indeed.
"I'm almost on the same level like last year, I think. On schedule," he told Cyclingnews.
"I don't want to be too good this weekend because it would be hard to take the shape all the way. I still have a month until I want to be in top shape. Usually in Paris-Nice I will race hard then the week after I'm where I need to be."
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