MUSCAT, Oman (VN) — Alexander Kristoff (Katusha – Alpecin) wants to turn back time. After falling sick in the classics last season, a success for him would be a return to the form he enjoyed in 2015 — the year he won the Ronde van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders).
The big Norwegian began 2017 with a bang, a stage win in at Etoile de Bessèges, and now he’s in Muscat to start his next race, the Tour of Oman.
“I felt really good actually last spring, but the results didn’t look so great because I didn’t win in Paris-Nice,” Kristoff explained poolside at the Hormuz Grand hotel.
“I didn’t have a Milano-Sanremo result, but it was actually the first year in Sanremo where I wasn’t dropped on the Poggio, so my shape wasn’t bad, and I just had a mistake in the last corner.
“Then I got sick the weekend afterwards and the rest of the classics didn’t go well, even if I had fourth in Flanders. It’s over, I got sick, and now, I hope to be back were I was in 2015.”
Kristoff bossed the peloton in 2015. He won throughout the season and in the spring classics, he had his top gear engaged. He placed second in Milano-Sanremo, fourth in E3 Harelbeke, ninth in Gent-Wevelgem, and then won the Ronde van Vlaanderen and Scheldeprijs.
The ride impressed the Russian WorldTour team and it prolonged his contract for 2016 and 2017. The 2016 season had its hitches.
“I was sick, that’s the reason,” Kristoff said. “I was really sick the weekend of Gent-Wevelgem, and after this I was never good again because I had fever for two or three days and that ruined the classics. I hopefully can avoid that this year, but you can never tell if you’ll get sick or not.”
With the fever interrupting his run, he said last spring that he did not feel as strong as he did in 2015. He hopes to stay well and lead a revamped German-charged team through the spring and into the Tour de France sprints. Over the winter, the Russian team signed a deal with German Alpecin shampoo manufacturer. Along with Alpecin, a handful of Germans joined: four-time time trial world champion, Tony Martin, Marco Mathis, and Rick Zabel.
“Many Germans. It changed a lot. We speak English in the meetings, but there is a lot of German at the dinner table, especially in my group. I don’t understand what they say!” Kristoff added.
“I think we have more power in the team around me. We miss Jacopo Guarnieri, who joined team FDJ, but we have more guys for controlling the race and getting to the sprints. We are not weaker in the sprints. We have more horsepower in the team than beforehand. We have a lot of strong guys to control it and bring it to the front.
“Michael Morkov or Marco Haller will lead-out, and we also have Rick Zabel this year with me. We’ll see how we do it in different races but it should usually be Morkov leading for the final stretch.”
Kristoff became Katusha’s star when he won Milano-Sanremo in 2014 and followed it with two stages in the Tour de France, and the Vattenfall Cyclassics.