Kristoff on green jersey: “I don’t really think I can win it”
The longest stage is of the 2018 Tour is also one of the flattest. A sprint is the expected conclusion and, at the start of the day, Alexander Kristoff offered his thoughts on his prospects… for the stage win in Chartres and the green jersey of 2018.
There’s a long, wide straight leading to the finish in Chartres but, inside the final kilometre the barriers close in a little. There’s also a significant downhill leading to the ‘flamme rouge’ and riders are going to be carrying considerable speed before the long drag on a slight uphill to the finish line of stage seven.
Alexander Kristoff is the kind of powerhouse who could take on the likes of Fernando Gaviria and Peter Sagan but, as he acknowledged at the start in Fougères, he’s like to be the isolated rider from UAE Team Emirates. Still, he has a plan: follow the Colombian who won stages one and four… hit the turbo at the and and see how he fares.
“We will come with a big speed because there’s a downhill,” Kristoff said shortly before the start of stage seven. “On paper it can look like you can come a bit from behind and take the draft with you on the downhill but in the end, there’s a slight corner so it’s easy to also get boxed in so we will see how it goes.”
When chasing stage wins, there’s a need for some daring as well as some speed and knowledge of who to follow. UAE has a split team in 2018: some domestiques for yesterday’s winner, Dan Martin, and a few for Kristoff in the sprints.
The Australian on the roster, Rory Sutherland – who makes his Tour debut in 2018, at the age of 36 – is dividing his time between the Irishman and the Norwegian.
“I’m kind of in between,” said Sutherland of his work responsibilities: protecting both Dan and Alexander. He knows his strengths and although he has plenty of experience, he doesn’t fit into one particular category. “I’m not a sprinter and I’m not a climber. But I think it’s really good actually for our team to have two leaders because it gives us somebody every day – it gives us a reason to do things, it gives us a reason to be at the front.
“It gives us a reason to have the head switched on for every single stage, which I think is really important because you can’t ease off.
“That’s been going really well so far. Alex has kind of got his group of guys for the finale and I help them out until it gets really crazy and then it’s better off that they all go together,” concluded Sutherland about his split responsibilities. “The rest of the time I keep my eye on Dan.”
A special helmet for the European champion, Alexander Kristoff (above).
Photo: Yuzuru Sunada
Meanwhile, the team has a policy for how they’d like to manage the sprints: put Roberto Ferrari on the wheel of Kristoff and see if he can help out, or play the role of second option in the sprints.
“At a round about with about two kilometres to go, Ferrari got lost a little bit,” said UAE directeur sportif, Philippe Mauduit. “We always bring Ferrari on the back wheel of Alex and if Alex has a problem then he can jump over and make the job for him.”
Kristoff is contesting his sixth Tour and he’s only won one stage to date, in Nîmes in 2014 when he was the man who spoiled Jack Bauer’s bid for a victory at the end of a long escape. Beyond that, the silver medallist from last year’s world championship road race has collected a three second places in the Tour over the years.
Could there be a second UAE win in succession? Kristoff doesn’t seem convinced.
“I know I’m going to pretty alone, for sure, in the last kilometre,” said Kristoff before the start, “so I need to find the good wheels and follow.
“In the last sprints, Gaviria was the wheel to be on so maybe I should look for him.”
Green jersey: not on his mind
“Quickstep has been winning a lot this year and also in the Tour,” said the European champion, Alexander Kristoff, when asked if it’s likely other teams will contribute to the chasing duties. “This is the team to beat and to do so we must try to tire them our so I don’t expect them to get too much help but maybe some other teams will, if they see it’s necessary, to come and help at the end.”
As it stands, the double stage winners – Sagan and Gaviria – are well ahead in the points classification with 199 and 156 points, respectively. Kristoff is ranked third with just 88 points but he’s not giving himself much of a chance of winning the green jersey in 2018.
“Actually, I don’t really think I can win it,” he confessed. “I think Sagan, for sure, is the big favourite. And you see also Gaviria sprinting really well. But, like you saw last year, the two best guys in the race for the green jersey went out and [Michael] Matthews won it in the end so you never know really what’s happening. That’s why I still will try to get some points when it’s not too hard to get them.
“We will see later on when we come closer to Paris if the two best guys are still there. They are pretty far ahead of me, so I don’t really expect to have any green jersey.”
– By Rob Arnold