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Kristoff downplays chances of winning on the Paris-Roubaix pave

The Katusha rider will attempt to win both the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix in the same season, a rare feat

GENT, Belgium (VN) — Will the Alexander Kristoff express keep on rolling?

After a tremendous run that includes victories at the Ronde van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders), Scheldeprijs, and three stages and the overall at the Three Days of De Panne, the 27-year-old Kristoff enters Sunday’s Paris-Roubaix as a five-star favorite.

Despite his obvious strength, Kristoff (Katusha) is downplaying his chances in Sunday’s “Hell of the North.”

“I’ve always gone better in Flanders. I’ve never gone that good in Roubaix. I think I was ninth two years ago, but I hope to improve it. I should be fine for Sunday,” Kristoff said. “Of course, I dream of winning, who doesn’t? If I get podium, I would be very happy. We will try, of course, but the whole team is in good form. We will give it a try, of course.”

That’s Norwegian-modesty speaking. Kristoff is clearly one of the strongest, if not strongest, rider right now in the peloton. Few can match him in the sprint, with the possible exception of John Degenkolb (Giant-Alpecin), who nipped him at Milano-Sanremo in March. And almost no one can stay on his wheel. He nearly rode defending Roubaix champion Niki Terpstra (Etixx-Quick-Step) off his wheel late in Flanders on the Paterberg climb.

“I cannot describe how good it feels. It was a childhood dream come true,” Kristoff said of winning Flanders. “It will be one of the best memories of my career. Like my bronze medal in the [2012] Olympics, when I look back at it, it wasn’t so big, but it’s a big moment in my career and my life. I am sure Flanders will be the same way.”

Kristoff and Katusha have no time to be nostalgic, at least not yet. They’ve been the revelation of the 2015 northern classics. Add Luca Paolini’s dramatic victory at Gent-Wevelgem, and the Russian-backed team has won every major race, except E3 Harelbeke, when Geraint Thomas (Sky) took the flowers.

Kristoff pointed to Terpstra and Bradley Wiggins (Sky) as two rivals to watch Sunday on the pavé.

“Sure, Terpstra won last year, so he better not slide away again, because it’s difficult to catch him,” Kristoff said. “And Wiggins? I don’t think he lacks the strength. For sure, he really should be ready. He can be dangerous. He showed last year he can do this race. He can be one of the favorites Sunday.”

Kristoff has other ambitions this season, and he confirmed he will make a run for the green jersey at the Tour de France, and then prepare for a run at the world title in Richmond, Virginia.

“Those are the main goals. I will train once I get home, and work for the Tour. We have Purito [Joaquim Rodríguez] for yellow, and we will try for green. In the end, we will see how many points I have. I want to win stages like last year,” he said. “After this, the worlds course can suit me, I will try to get me into shape again in USA.”

Up first is his date with destiny, and a rare shot at the Flanders-Roubaix double. Only 10 riders have won both monuments in the same year.

“First, I must win Roubaix. There is a lot of suffering, and I must do everything right to win,” he said with a smile. “It’s not impossible, I will try. With this [Scheldeprijs] victory, I am very happy. No matter what happens in Roubaix, I can be happy with my classics period.”