A split in the peloton caused in the finale also means Maciej Bodnar (Tinkoff-Saxo) moves to just six seconds behind Niki Terpstra (Etixx-Quick Step), who remains the overall leader. British duo Ian Stannard and Luke Rowe (Sky) finished in the second group, meaning Stannard remains 12 seconds down in third and Rowe slips from fifth to sixth.
In the sprint, Kristoff got the better of Nikias Arndt (Giant-Alpecin) in a drag race to the line, and also held off a late surge from Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) to narrowly cross the line first.
Britain’s Adam Blythe (Orica-GreenEdge) put in a good performance to finish fourth. His team took control of the peloton at a roundabout four kilometres to the line, and put Blythe in a strong position to contest the sprint.
Perhaps the best work was done by Giant-Alpecin, however, as they emerged at the front in the final few hundred metres. Had Kittel been at the back of their train and not Arndt, victory may well have been theirs.
The crosswinds that so heavily affected the opening stages failed to materialise here, as the bunch struggled instead with a difficult headwind. The conditions proved too difficult for the original break featuring Jaco Venter (MTN Qhubeka), Dmitry Gruzdev (Astana) and Jarl Salomein (Topsport Vlaanderen), who were all caught with 20 kilometres still to ride.
From that point on it was a gradual procession to the line for the peloton, with no riders braving an attack in the unobliging conditions.
Tour of Qatar 2015, stage four: Al Thakhira to Mesaieed, 165km
1. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha in 4-15-57
2. Peter Sagan (Svk) Tinkoff-Saxo
3. Nikias Arndt (Ger) Giant-Alpecin
4. Adam Blythe (GBr) Orica-GreenEdge
5. Nicola Ruffoni (Ita) Bardiani-CSF
6. Heinrich Haussler (Aus) IAM Cycling
7. Borut Bozic (Slo) Astana
8. Andrea Guardini (Ita) Astana
9. Jose Joaquin Rojas (Spa) Movistar
10. Sacha Modolo (Ita) Lampre-Merida all same time
Overall classification after stage four
1. Niki Terpstra (Ned) Etixx-QuickStep in 12-09-44
2. Maciej Bodnar (Pol) Tinkoff-Saxo at 6 secs
3. Ian Stannard (GBr) Sky at 12 secs
4. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing at 19 secs
5. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha at 21 secs
6. Luke Rowe (GBr) Sky at 33 secs
7. Peter Sagan (Svk) Tinkoff-Saxo at 37 secs
8. Heinrich Haussler (Aus) IAM Cycling at 39 secs
9. Andriy Grivko (Ukr) Astana at 41 secs
10. Tom Boonen (Bel) Etixx-QuickStep at 42 secs