By Owen Rogers
When Alexander Kristoff sprinted to stage six victory at the Tour of Oman yesterday it was to notch up his fifth win of the season. This statistic is even more impressive when one considers yesterday was just his 11th race day of 2016. A strike rate nearing 50 per cent is impressive in any sport.
The Norwegian has begun 2016 in much the same manner he did last year, when he seemed unstoppable, especially in the spring. Last year he had 15 victories by the end of May, including the Tour of Flanders and the General Classification at the Three Days of De Panne, where he won three of the four stages.
The Spring Classics season has brought 28-year-old Kristoff incredible success in the last two years and, with the four stages he has won in the Middle Eastern races this month he could be heading for more of the same.
“I have five victories already, so that gives me confidence,” he said. “Last year I was really good this part of the season and this year I have started the same. But the Classics are a bit different. They are harder and longer, but many of the same guys are there, so if I can beat them here I can beat them here,” he explained with no hint of arrogance.
His first race this year did not go as planned, however: “I was a little bit worried about my sprint shape at the first stage,” he said of his defeat to Mark Cavendish in the first stage at the Tour of Qatar. “I was really slow but I improved after the second [stage], so I think it was that I did not have speed in my legs for the first race of the season.”
There is still work to do if he is to realise his major ambitions for this spring, defence of his Tour of Flanders crown and Milan-San Remo, which he won in 2014. He was comprehensively dropped on the climbs which comprised the final 40 kilometres of Saturday’s stage five to the Omani Ministry of Tourism, and it is climbing where he will concentrate his training over the next few weeks.
However, other than Cavendish, who has been preparing for the track, none of the world’s top sprinters were present in either Qatar or Oman, so how does Kristoff think he will fare against the cream of the sprinting crop later in the year?
“In the really flat sprints, Kittel is seriously focussed and it would be difficult to pass him,” Kristoff admits. “You see how he sprints and nobody was really close, so it’ll be exciting to see how I am against him. I am expecting to lose if it’s an easy race, but in the harder stages I think I can drop him.”
Watch: My toughest day - Alexander Kristoff
The success of the last two years has caused Kristoff to raise his sights significantly, and while he is happy with his form, this is no time to rest on his laurels.
“This race [Tour of Oman] is not a small race, it is Hors Category, so it is good to win here. But a few years ago if I did nothing for the rest of the year I would have been happy, but now, after these two years I want a little bit more in the big races.”
Considering his talents, Kristoff is a humble, unassuming man, though it is clear he is hugely ambitious. That desire, coupled with the from he has shown to date, indicate we could be seeing an awful lot of Alexander Kristoff over the next few months.
Longtermers: Rich Windsor's Meteor Works Aesir tourer
Our longtermers series continues. This month, digital editor Rich Windsor discusses his choices when he put together his dream touring bike
By Richard Windsor •
Seven men jailed for stealing bikes worth £70k from Rutland Cycling shop
Police caught the gang of thieves who had stolen 23 bikes from the chain store in Grafham Water
By Ryan Dabbs •
RideLondon winner Alexander Kristoff falls just short of taking Box Hill Strava KOM
Norwegian Alexander Kristoff places fourth out of 81,887 riders who have logged a ride on Strava up Box Hill in Surrey
By Nigel Wynn •
Milan San-Remo 2016: Alexander Kristoff is the bookies' favourite to regain his crown
Winner in 2014, Alexander Kristoff is the pre-race favourite at 9/2 but Peter Sagan, Michael Matthews and Fabian Cancellara all offer good prices
By Cycling Weekly •
Seven riders to watch at Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne
The first sprinters Classic of the year is Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne and here are the seven riders who could make the headlines on Sunday
By Stuart Clarke •
Vincenzo Nibali seals Tour of Oman overall victory as Alexander Kristoff takes stage win
Alexander Kristoff continues stage-winning streak as Vincenzo Nibali sends clear signal to Giro d'Italia rivals that he's in good shape with GC victory
By Owen Rogers •
There's something quite familiar about Alexander Kristoff's winning pattern this year
Alexander Kristoff has started his season in EXACTLY the same way that he started last season
By Stuart Clarke •
Alexander Kristoff wins Tour of Oman stage three
Norwegian sprinter Alexander Kristoff lives up to billing as stage favourite by taking win on third day of 2016 Tour of Oman
By Nigel Wynn •
Alexander Kristoff beats Mark Cavendish to win Tour of Qatar stage two
Norwegian Alexander Kristoff just pips Mark Cavendish in a sprint showdown in the Tour of Qatar
By Owen Rogers •
Alexander Kristoff: Cav has a new team, but I know what he can do
Katusha sprinter is more excited to see what rival Marcel Kittel will do next year, than Mark Cavendish as both join new teams
By Sophie Hurcom •