Norwegian Alexander Kristoff pays back his Katusha-Alpecin team's hard work with victory in London
Alexander Kristoff (Katusha-Alpecin) won the Prudential RideLondon-Surrey Classic on Sunday from a bunch sprint at the end of a fast-paced edition of the race.
The Norwegian made up for a winless Tour de France by sprinting ahead of his rivals on The Mall to claim the win ahead of Magnus Cort Nielsen (Orica-Scott), with Tour green jersey winner Michael Matthews (Team Sunweb) in third.
The elevation to WorldTour status for 2017 changed the way the race unfolded compared to previous editions. The pace was kept very high through the narrow roads of Surrey, turning it into a war of attrition.
— RideLondon WorldTour (@RideLondonWT) July 30, 2017
The initial escape group comprised Iljo Keisse (Quick-Step Floors), Twan Castelijns (LottoNL-Jumbo), Julien Duval (Ag2r), Wesley Kreder (Wanty Groupe Gobert), and Mads Wurtz Schmidt (Katusha-Alpecin).
As the riders started to tackle the Surrey Hills, and particularly Leith Hill and into two tough circuits up and over Ranmore Common, the peloton started to dramatically split apart as riders were dropped.
Kreder and Duval lost touch with their companions, with Team Sky and UAE Team Emirates largely responsible for driving the pace of the peloton.
As Sky looked to create an even more furious pace, the lead trio were subsequently swept up.
Matteo Trentin (Quick-Step Floors), Daryl Impey (Orica-Scott) and Peter Kennaugh (Team Sky) then attacked heading into 60km to go and on the final pass of Ranmore, but Kennaugh soon dropped off the pace to leave two riders in front.
Trentin and Impey continued sharing the lead out front, with a slim gap. On the ascent of Box Hill – the final categorised climb of the day with 45km to go – Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo) attacked out of the chase group and bridged to Impey and Trentin.
This new lead trio continued to work well together, but could not make much headway. With the major climbs completed, the peloton started to regroup behind them and the gap was 28 seconds with 30km to go.
Stuyven’s Trek-Segafredo team-mates moved to the front of the peloton, disrupting the speed of the chase and allowing the break to eek out more time leading into the final flat run-in to London. Their gap stretched out to around 35 seconds, before being pegged back.
Team Sunweb and Katusha-Alpecin were at the front of the bunch to lead the chase, but a tailwind was assisting the three riders in the lead to set up a nail-biting game of cat-and-mouse.
Impey was unable to hold onto the wheels of Stuyven and Trentin heading into Wimbledon Village and it seemed like the impetus had gone from the break, as the gap reduced to 18 seconds with 12km to go.
Bizarrely, there was just a single Sunweb rider and a single Katusha rider sat in front of Trek and Quick-Step line at the front of the bunch to do the chasing. No-one seemed to want to burn out riders in the pursuit to potentially leave their lead-out trains short to the advantage of their rivals.
Inside 4km, Trentin and Stuyven still had 16 seconds over the peloton but then Orica-Scott and Team Sky started to move their riders up to the front of the bunch and the gap started to tumble and they were caught with 1km to go.
The wide finishing straight up The Mall allowed everyone plenty of room in a drag-race, with Kristoff capitalising on his team’s efforts to claim the victory.
Prudential RideLondon-Surrey Classic, 200km
1. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha-Alpecin, in 4-05-42
2. Magnus Cort Nielsen (Den) Orica-Scott
3. Michael Matthews (Aus) Team Sunweb
4. Sep Vanmarcke (Bel) Cannondale-Drapac
5. Wouter Wippert (Ned) Cannondale-Drapac, at same time
6. Jean-Pierre Drucker (Lux) BMC Racing Team, at 1 sec
7. Zak Dempster (Aus) Israel Cycling Academy
8. Sam Bennett (Irl) Bora-Hansgrohe
9. Rudy Barbier (Fra) Ag2r La Mondiale
10. Oliver Naesen (Bel) Ag2r La Mondiale, at same time