After falling agonisingly short on several stages of the Dubai Tour, Kristoff finally stamped his maiden victory with UAE Team Emirates on stage six in Oman on Sunday.
The Norwegian was satisfied to see everything come together in a race after being limited to two fourth and two seventh-place finishes in Dubai.
“It’s always nice to get the first win, every year,” Kristoff told Sport360°.
“In the Tour of Dubai, we had not trained together so much for the sprints so it was difficult and we didn’t manage to time it correct, so I didn’t get any super good results. So it was nice that we finally came really good together and yesterday the team did really perfect work.
“We showed if we do things correctly, we can win sprints. It was a nice team victory.”
🏁 LAST KILOMETRE 🏁@Kristoff87 displayed raw power and enjoyed a perfect lead-out, featuring World champion @RuiCostaCyclist, to claim the win on the Matrah Corniche ahead of @bryancoquard & @Giacomonizzolo #TOO2018 @TeamUAEAbuDhabi pic.twitter.com/nwkYjhBpSY— Tour of Oman (@tourofoman) February 18, 2018
Leaving Dubai empty-handed was surely a disappointment for UAE Team Emirates and likely means added pressure on the side to come away with more success in the capital.
Kristoff, however, recognises his role in the Abu Dhabi Tour will be different to the one he played in Dubai.
With Abu Dhabi featuring a summit finish that could once again decide the general classification as it did last year, Kristoff will support his climber team-mates Fabio Aru, who will make his UAE Team Emirates debut, and Rui Costa, the reigning champion.
“Now that we managed to get a win in Oman, that took a little bit of pressure off. But for sure, we are on home ground and the lineup we have is very good,” Kristoff said.
“But it’s not maybe so good for the sprints and I think the main goal for the team is the GC. With the last day with the uphill finish, we have a really strong squad for this. Then in the sprints if we can get one stage, I think that will be a bonus since we have maybe three riders in the sprint train and will compete against full trains of other teams.”
From a top-seven team by the end of this season, to one of the top outfits in cycling by 2020, the expectations for UAE Team Emirates continue to rise.
After getting their feet wet in last season’s inaugural campaign, the team significantly raised the talent on their roster with the additions of big names in Alexander Kristoff, Fabio Aru and Dan Martin.
And as the profile and level of the squad grows, so does Mauro Gianetti’s belief that UAE Team Emirates can compete with the best.
“The target of this year was to first increase the level of the team. With Fabio Aru, Kristoff and other very good riders on the team, the main goal is to be one of the top seven teams in the world by the end of the year,” said the UAE Team Emirates general manger.
“And of course to be a team like (co-manager and former cyclist) Giuseppe Saronni, a team that shows courage during the race. Not just waiting, but take the race in hand in the big tours like the Giro d’Italia, Tour de France and of course the classics like Milan-San Remo, Flanders and others.”
Considering the riders at their disposal now, that goal appears more than attainable.
Aru has a Vuelta a Espana title (2015) to his name, along with the young rider classification in the Giro d’italia (2015) and a stage victory at last year’s Tour de France.
Martin, meanwhile, has stage triumphs in both the Vuelta (2011) and Tour de France (2013).
The collective resume of UAE Team Emirates means that the time is now for the squad to at least put on respectable showings in the Grand Tours and Classics.
I will be at the start of the @giroditalia! My choice to participate to the Giro has been done with conviction... (please read here the entire quote: https://t.co/qf56j5FsaM) #ilcavalieredei4mori pic.twitter.com/FUvhW1bnxR— Fabio Aru (@FabioAru1) February 19, 2018
“Expectations this season are at another level. With riders like Kristoff, Aru and Martin, we hope they will be protagonists in the Classics,” said Gianetti.
“In Milan-San Remo and these types of Classics, we didn’t have a lot of good riders last year. With Aru and Martin, when we go to the Giro and to the Vuelta, we will be at another level with riders fighting for the GC (general classification).”
While the roster is in place for UAE Team Emirates to make good on their short-term target, Gianetti recognises that they will have to keep evolving to reach the bigger goal – one that is still years down the road.
Gianetti said: “The dream and the vision is to by 2020 be one of the top teams in the world.”
UAE Team Emirates rider Alexander Kristoff won Sunday’s sixth and final stage as Alexey Lutsenko clinched overall victory at the Tour of Oman.
Reigning European champion Kristoff sprinted to victory along the Muscat corniche, a hair ahead of France’s Bryan Coquard and Giamco Nizzolo of Italy in a little over three hours on the 135.5km course.
And the bunch sprint finish meant overnight leader Lutsenko held on to claim overall victory with Astana team-mate Miguel Moreno of Colombia second and Spaniard Gorka Insausti third.
“I’m very happy to have won my first victory with UAE Team Emirates,” said Kristoff. “I feel so much faith from the team and I’ve always had strong men at my side in these first races of the season.
“I enjoy this finish a lot. I won already here in 2016 and 2017, so I knew that today would be an optimum chance to succeed.”
In the final overall classification, Rui Costa finished in 10th place, 1 minute 37 seconds behind race winner Lutsenko.