It was the Norwegian’s second victory of the season – having picked up a stage win at the Tour of Oman in February – and he did so in a stylish fashion. Strong winds throughout the race had pulled apart the peloton, and with just 5km to go, a breakaway group of four riders threatened to take the spoils.
But a reduced chasing group caught them with less than a kilometre to go and a bunched sprint became inevitable. As the riders powered their way into the final 200m, Kristoff held the perfect position alongside some of cycling’s most decorated sprinters.
But with teammate Fernando Gaviria also in the mix, 31-year-old Kristoff launched his final attack with 100m to go; leaving the lead group in his wake and crossing the line a metre ahead of his nearest rival.
Kristoff said: “I remained at the front of the group with Gaviria. At 10 kilometres out, we spoke and agreed that I would make this sprint and try to win. In the sprint, I was the strongest and that’s even if I was a little bit tired but all the riders at the front of the group raced hard and fast from the start.
“I pulled out a big win that carries a lot of weight in the spring classics. The team has improved a lot and I’m benefiting from the work that I’ve done with my trainers and with training rides a little shorter but more intense, and the results are starting to show.
“The change is paying off. I’m also content because I feel my condition is improving and it’s a good signal ahead of the Tour of Flanders.”
The victory gives UAE Team Emirates its first big classic one-day race win and their eleventh victory of the season.
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