Alexander Kristoff was undertaking a very different role in the Emirates this week and admitted it has been hard playing second fiddle to new team-mate Fernando Gaviria.
Colombian sprint sensation Gaviria rode to glory on Stage 2 and claimed two further runner-up spots on Stages 5 and 7 of the UAE Tour. It was made possible by the work of the Norwegian who, up until this season, had grown used to being the main man for UAE Team Emirates in the sprints.
Kristoff, the 31-year-old 2017 European road race champion who won the final stage at the Tour de France last year, has turned leadout man for Gaviria on ‘home soil’ this week, and he almost delivered the 24-year-old Gaviria to a second triumph on Saturday.
Kristoff, playing the supporting actor well, said of his wingman role: “I had to go hard to bring him to the front and we came in at a good speed.
“Unfortunately I think (stage winner Sam) Bennett got his wheels or got the same benefit and, in the headwind, he just maybe had the faster legs or the better position. We are happy but for sure we wanted to win again.”
🇦🇪 In the final stage of @uae_tour we gained a 2nd place with @FndoGaviria and a 4th place with @Kristoff87 along the Dubai City Walk.— @UAE-TeamEmirates (@TeamUAEAbuDhabi) 2 March 2019
📝Read the full release with quotes:https://t.co/d3lRxUq2Qw #UAETeamEmirates #UAETour pic.twitter.com/4xciVK6VmR
Kristoff was honest in admitting he would prefer to be the leading man, but he is also aware that Gaviria, seven years his junior, is the faster sprinter.
“It’s new for me, I usually try to sprint myself,” added Kristoff, who himself finished fourth on the final stage at Dubai’s City Walk.
“It’s not so different today because the sprint was so close after the corner. For sure I’d like to be doing the sprints myself but if you put me against him in a race usually I think he will beat me every time.
“But in sprints it always depends how you come in. Last year I was lucky to win (he claimed victory on the Abu Dhabi Tour’s opening stage), so maybe it’s possible (for us both to win). But we have two good sprinters and we have to work for one.”
Even though he may be forced to swallow his pride a little, Kristoff is looking at the bigger picture – the Tour de France – with both sprinters likely to be selected as the team again go in search of stage and overall victory this July.
“I would have preferred to be in Belgium (UAE Team Emirates has sent a contingent to take part in the early season classics, Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne Brussel Kuurnebut) but the sponsors wanted to have the best riders and to have the best results so it was important for me to come here for the team and to help Fernando for the sprints,” added the veteran.
“I think it worked out quite well. The plan is also to work out for the Tour so it was good to come here ahead of the Tour.”
Kristoff, Gaviria and Dan Martin – another stage winner in France last summer – were all part of a strong UAE side this week.
“It’s really important for us and the sponsors. Except for the Tour I think this is the most important race,” added Kristoff.
“You maybe have a bit less motivation when you’re not going for the win but, for sure, my motivation was high.
“The stage win was a highlight, we started in the best possible way. We wanted to win more for sure, we had two second places in the sprints too so in the sprints we were there but we were hoping for one more. But two seconds is also good.”
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