Kristoff best Andrea Guardini (Bardiani-CSF) and Australian Caleb Ewan (Mitchelton-Scott) in a bunch sprint that Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) didn’t figure in after bizarrely crashing out in the neutral zone.
Cavendish wasn’t the only big name missing from the final with neither Andre Greipel (Lotto Soudal) nor Marcel Kittel (Katusha-Alpecin), who had briefly reconnoitred it in the morning, placing inside the top five.
Kristoff, 30, lost his teammates in the headwind finish along a very slight incline but sprinted off Ewan’s wheel to start the race as he finished the Tour of Oman last week.
“It was a really calm and easy day and usually that doesn’t suit me perfectly, usually I need a bit harder racing but I showed I can still perform in big sprints with the fastest guys in the world so that gives me confidence,” he said.
“I lost my teammates as it was a quite chaotic final but I drifted off wheels, then I found Caleb Ewan’s wheel at the end and came around him even though he is quite low and doesn’t have too much draft.”
Ewan looked primed for line honours, hitting the front early but ran out of steam.
“Ideally it was a sprint you want to come really late but I was forced into going early and then once I had no other option I committed, I didn’t want to hesitate because you lose too much speed in that finish,” he said.
“I went and hoped for the best but Kristoff was too fast … it was easy all day and then we went full gas in the end.”
Every marquee pure sprinter is virtually here, but none of the WorldTour teams were in a hurry to hit the front and take control yesterday. The race proper began with 4km to go when the peloton split in two to either side of the road as sprint trains began to assemble.
Elia Viviani’s Quick-Step Floors team had the most visible lead-out but was ultimately swamped metres from the line, with the Italian placing fourth.
The win for Kristoff was further indication his preparation for the spring classics is on the right trajectory.
“The shape is good. For the classics, I have a good feeling and hope I will be close to the best guys again,” he said.