On the eve of Paris-Roubaix, Alexander Kristoff continued to downplay his chances of a top result having played down his odds earlier in the week. The Katusha rider won Milan-San Remo in 2014, Tour of Flanders in 2015 with Paris-Roubaix his final opportunity in 2016 to add a third monument to his palmares.
Speaking with media at the team presentation in Compiègne, Kristoff explained he was feeling 'ok' and aiming for the top ten with several other riders occupying favourite status.
"I know what is coming, I did this race every year as a pro," said the Norwegian. "I only finished half of my participations here but I hope at least I will finish this year and hope for a good result. At least a top ten but we will see."
Kristoff first rode 'The Hell of the North' in 2010, recording a DNF as he did a year later with 2012 the first edition he finished in 57th place. Ninth place in 2013 suggested the then 25-year-old could be a future contender on the pavé only to DNF a year later than bounced back with tenth last year.
"For me I am feeling more like an outsider yeah and actually my best result was nine and last year I was ten so I was never really in the top here. I hope we can change but I never felt so good on the flat cobbles," said Kristoff who has never finished lower than 15th at the Tour of Flanders by way of comparison. "Maybe this year I am feeling better, I hope."
Asked who he sees as the favourites for the win, Kristoff wouldn't be drawn into naming one name as he explained there is an open field of favourites for the victory.
"I think these two are the big favourites," he said of Peter Sagan and Fabian Cancellara, "and I think also Sep Vanmarcke who looked really strong with all his troubles last week. And there are also a few other guys who look strong like Lars Boom, Stybar, Terpstra…Boonen you should never say never because he won here may times also."
In recent editions of Paris-Roubaix, the trend has been for the winner to arrive solo in the velodrome with the 2015 edition an exception with a group of six contesting the victory. Kristoff is hoping this year's race sees another large group arrive in the Roubaix velodrome with a sprint to decide to the winner.
"Best scenario that a bigger group fights for the win then I am there and can sprint for the win but I think if you look at the last years, this is not going to happen," he said with a hint of resignation. "For sure it's going to split apart in the end and I have to be strong enough to follow or be in front of these attacks but it's going to be hard and it's going to be a hard race. Usually, the harder the race is, it doesn't suit me better, it's better for me if it's easier."
Kristoff added that waiting for a sprint finish isn't his only tactic heading into the race though.
"If the right guy goes a little bit early, if I have the legs I will try and go with them but this is a dream scenario and I think a little bit difficult," he said of making an early move. "It's going to be hard, so usually I will sit in the group and survive for as long as possible and I hope I can survive all the way to the end."
Whichever tactic Kristoff decides upon could ultimately be forced by a reaction to how the major favourites Peter Sagan and Fabian Cancellara decide to make the race and if either launches an attack like what the world champion did on the Paterberg at Flanders, the Katusha man is hoping for better legs than last Sunday in Belgium.
"I know when the best guys go like Cancellara and Sagan, like last weekend I had no chance when Sagan moved or Cancellara moved. It could be the same story on Sunday but I hope I can be better," he said.
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