Norwegian Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) keeps on firing after winning Milan-San Remo, two stages in the Tour de France and the Vattenfall Cyclassics in 2014. In the Tour of Qatar's second stage today, he survived sand storms, made the splits and sprinted to his first win of 2015 on the Al Khor Corniche.
"Everyone knew it would be hard," Kristoff said. "I was there and I felt good all day."
Kristoff wiped the Qatari grit from his face and made his way to the podium to accept the flowers for the win and the golden leader's jersey. He leads by one second on Tom Boonen (Etixx-Quick Step).
>>> Alexander Kristoff wins stage two of the Tour of Qatar
The 27-year-old was one of only 15 cyclists who made the front group. Sky's Ian Stannard and Luke Rowe also did, but Bradley Wiggins and many others were left behind in the strong cross-winds.
Few had heard of Kristoff last year at this time, but that changed when he sprinted to win the Milan-San Remo classic in March. That carried him through 2014, when he won sprints against Mark Cavendish, Marcel Kittel and Peter Sagan in the Tour de France and Hamburg's Vattenfall Cyclassics.
"Last year, I had a stage win in the Tour of Oman, that was good for my confidence, but I entered with low confidence because I couldn't win in the Tour of Qatar," Kristoff told Cycling Weekly.
"If you have the legs, you have the legs. Now I also have confidence. I saw that last year I could make results in the biggest races in the world. I know by training data that I'm just as good this year. That gives me confidence for 2015."
Qatar will prepare Kristoff for the classics, like it will for many including Boonen and Wiggins. He wants to score in the big-three of the spring: Milan-San Remo, the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix.
"They are the main goals. I also want to be good in Paris-Nice and Ghent-Wevelgem, and E3 in Harelbeke. I want to be good in that period of March and April. I know I cannot win in every race, but I want to be there to fight for good positions and good placings."
Kristoff will peak for two more races: the Tour de France and World Championship road race in Richmond, Virginia. First, he will try to win more stages in the remaining four days of the Tour of Qatar and the race overall.
"It's a complement to the team that the pressure is on us,” he added.
“That the other teams respect us and think we can win, of course we'll have more pressure, that's normal. The pressure will be higher, but you can only do your best."
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