After his splendid string of victories in the Spring Classics, Katusha's Alexander Kristoff took some downtime from racing where he extended his contract with Katusha with two more years before starting the build-up towards the Tour de France.
He started racing again at the end of May at the Tour of Norway where he won two stages and the points classification. A few days later he rode the Tour des Fjords and won three stages and the points classification.
Halfway into June he raced in Switzerland where he won the GP du canton d'Argovie, beating Michael Albasini (Orica-GreenEdge) and the now suspended Davide Appollonio (Androni Giocatolli-Sidermec). At the following Tour de Suisse he won the stage to Düdingen, beating Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo), and then finished 10th at Nationals.
But despite another successful block of racing, Kristoff doesn't feel 100 per cent confident about the upcoming Tour de France. "I felt good after Switzerland but then after Nationals I wasn't super. In training I've been okay," Kristoff said at the team presentation in Utrecht on Thursday.
Kristoff is one of the bunch-sprint stars and he'll be mixing it up with men like Mark Cavendish (Etixx-QuickStep), Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo), John Degenkolb (Giant-Alpecin) and André Greipel (Lotto-Soudal). They're also expected to fight for the green jersey of the points classification, although none of these riders have voiced a clear aim for green.
For the last three years, Slovakian champion Sagan won the green jersey in Paris. This year, however, the Tour de France organisation reshuffled the points system to benefit stage winners over consistent top-three finishers during the first nine stages. A winner now receives 20 points more than the runner-up, which was only a 10-point difference in the past.
Kristoff expressed his thoughts over the new system and how he envisions his tactics playing out.
"I haven't really looked into it so much but I'm going to focus on the stages from the start, but I won't try and make it for sprints at the intermediates. If the others want to then I have to sprint with them but the main objective is to win stages," Kristoff said.
"With the new system, the more stage wins you have the more chances you have for the green."
Kristoff's main rival is expected to be Sagan even though his Tinkoff-Saxo team will be focused on GC contender Alberto Contador. "They have two objectives there with Contador going for yellow so it could be difficult for him to fight for green," Kristoff said.
He added that there was no clear favourite to win the bunch sprints or the green jersey. "I think it's quite open but Cavendish will be there and he's motivated and had a good year. You also have Degenkob, Matthews and Greipel, and the French sprinters; Bouhanni and Démare."
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