If Alexander Kristoff does the school run at the speed he showed on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice at the end of stage one of the Tour de France, it’s unlikely his kids have ever been late.
The Norwegian seemed almost surprised that he outclassed rivals such as Sam Bennett (Deceuninck – Quick-Step), Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Elia Viviani (Cofidis) to take the first yellow jersey and his fourth French Grand Tour stage win.
“I’m 33 years old and have four kids but I still managed to win the biggest race in the world so it gives hope for everyone,” Kristoff said after the finish. “The first stage in the Tour…it couldn’t start better, and the yellow jersey is a bonus, [I’m wearing it for the] first time in my career.
“I’m proud and humbled, I will enjoy it tomorrow. I guess I will lose it but I will enjoy the day riding in it.”
The finale looked like it was shaping up for Sam Bennett to take a first yellow jersey for Ireland since Stephen Roche in 1987, but Kristoff proved to have the freshest legs after a stressful, crash-marred day to power across the line first.
“I knew I was going to be alone in the sprint [without team-mates], that was clear, and I know a guy who’s really good alone is Peter Sagan, so I stayed on his wheel,” the UAE Team Emirates rider explained.
“Then I saw Cees Bol had some team-mates and he started early so it was a good lead-out for me, then I had good legs and went out from his wheel and then in the last 50 metres I was quite confident I would take it.
“I can’t quite describe the feeling. I was feeling good in the sprint training [before the Tour] so hopefully I can take more stages later on.”
Kristoff had apparently turned up to the Critérium du Dauphiné and taken one look at the roadbook before realising there weren’t any flat stages to compete in. Instead, he struggled through five mountainous days before missing the time cut on the final stage.
He says the Dauphiné, therefore, offered his a “suffer camp” to prepare for the Tour, and that he won’t go out of his way to compete with Sagan for the green jersey, but will contest the intermediate sprints to keep his legs fresh for other stage opportunities later in the race.
“I’ve never been close to winning the green jersey because Peter has been quite far away, there’s always a lot of points between us,” Kristoff admitted. “But this is a special Tour and a lot can happen. I’ll try and get points, not necessarily for the green jersey, but to prepare for the sprints later on, to practice.”
As well as other potential stage victories, Kristoff’s main objectives are the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix in October. In this strange season, the strongman Norwegian may yet outlast his opponents and mop up more victories than anyone would have believed he could at the start of the year.