The UAE rider's more fancied team mate Fernando Gaviria, part of the 20+ rider group that galloped away in the wind after the first hour of racing, was back in the chase group before the race finally rejoined at the head with 18 kilometres to go.
But the early work in the 251km race took its toll on the Colombian who told Kristoff to go for it.
“At 10 kilometres out, we spoke and agreed that I would make this sprint and try to win," Kristoff said.
"In the sprint, I was the strongest and that’s even if I was a little bit tired but all the riders at the front of the group raced hard and fast from the start. I pulled out a big win that carries a lot of weight in the spring classics."
And as former sprinter and expert analyst Robbie McEwen suggests in this tweet, Gaviria contributed greatly to Kristoff's victory, calling it the 'reverse lead-out':
Amazingly, John Degenkolb (Trek-Segafredo), also part of the early break, sprinted to second with Oliver Naesen (Ag2R-Mondiale) an admirable third.
Back with the chasers by the time they caught Peter Sagan (Bora-hansgrohe), Matteo Trentin (Mitchelton-Scott), Mike Teunissen (Jumbo-Visma), Luke Rowe, (Sky) and Edward Theuns (Trek-Segafredo), the German got into the initial break along with team mates Theuns, Mads Pedersen and Jasper Stuyven.
"I don't want to say the F-word," Degenkolb said "But it was super, super hard today. It was unbelievable.
"I was very nervous already in the neutral zone. I don’t ever remember the wind coming from this direction in Gent-Wevelgem so it was quite clear that at one moment it would split. It was just amazing that we were there with four guys.
"In the end, we could rely on our power to make a result, and it didn’t matter who it was. I was focusing on the sprint and Mads and Jasper were attacking to make a split and covering all the attacks."
For Kristoff though, a prestigious Gent-Wevelgem victory leaves him more than satisfied for the season ahead including the Tour de France where he'll happily serve as lead out for Gaviria.
"The team has improved a lot and I’m benefiting from the work that I’ve done with my trainers and with training rides a little shorter but more intense, and the results are starting to show.
"The change is paying off. I’m also content because I feel my condition is improving and it’s a good signal ahead of the Tour of Flanders.”