Alexander Kristoff is on a crash course of familiarity with new stable UAE Team Emirates as he puts in ground work for the spring classics with a series of tours in the Middle East.
Sophie Smith

Cycling Central
13 Feb 2018 - 1:49 PM 

Kristoff made his publicised debut with the squad at the Dubai Tour last week, working with a new sprint train that was consistently in the mix but not on the mark.

The 30-year-old will start the Tour of Oman today with a different roster again as he looks to make a firm impression at the hillier race, which is usually a happy hunting ground.

Kristoff has claimed at least one stage win in four of the eight editions he’s started, including last season where he took three and marked a stint in the leader’s jersey.

The Norwegian appeared relaxed speaking with journalists at a pre-race press gathering here in Muscat on Monday, undaunted by the prospect of potential team teething problems hurting his campaign.

“In Dubai, I felt good but the results were not there. We haven’t worked so much together with the lead-out yet and made some mistakes,” he said

“Now I have a totally different team here so we start from scratch again! We have [Roberto] Ferrari and [Marco] Marcato here who have experience, and we were a little bit less experienced in Dubai. I hope we will get some good sprints.”

Kristoff made the well-documented move to the UAE squad following a six-year tenure with Katusha-Alpecin that signed Marcel Kittel for 2018.

Kittel’s signature meant Kristoff would have been relegated to a lead-out role in bunch sprints if he’d stayed.

“It could be a role for me in the future, I think I’ve done some good lead-outs for guys on my wheel before,” he laughed. “But I still want to be able to sprint for a few more years, and then maybe this will be a direction.”

Kristoff will be able to serve as both a marquee sprinter and marquee classics captain at UAE this season, with Milan-San Remo, the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix set to comprise the crux his season.

The world championship silver medalist is aware he’ll have to fight established names and new blood alike to return to his previous best in the spring.

“It’s been some years now since I won Flanders in ’15 and San Remo in ’14, I hope again I can prove I’m at this level,” he said.

“They’re difficult goals but I’ve achieved two of them before so I know it’s possible.”

Paris-Roubaix presents a different challenge for Kristoff, who is less comfortable on course.

“I think Paris-Roubaix suits guys with more of a time trial engine as it’s flat and it’s hard for a long time. I would say Flanders is harder but it’s more explosive, you get a downhill and you can rest, whereas in Paris-Roubaix you never get a rest because it’s cobbles and then after it is full-gas flat until the next cobbles. It’s not so hard in the hard part but it’s never easy either,” he said.

“I’m never really smooth on the cobbles. Every year I have the same feeling I’m not really going well over, but I have two times top 10 so I hope to improve it of course.”

Kristoff has embraced the fresh start with UAE Team Emirates, which he said has served as added motivation as he works to find a new rhythm.

“It’s just small things, like, you get new equipment,” he said. “You try different frames, different saddles and small things like this made the winter a little bit faster just because you’re testing out stuff.”

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