Belgium: UAE Team Emirates’ Alexander Kristoff defied all odds on Sunday afternoon to take home the Gent-Wevelgem title and add to his growing list of race victories since joining the Emirati formation.
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 style. Strong winds throughout the race had pulled apart the peloton, and with just 5km to go, a break-away group of four riders threatened to take the spoils.
But a reduced chasing group caught them with less than a kilometre to go and the 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 — this was going to be no easy feat. But with teammate Fernando Gaviria also in the mix, 31-year-old Kristoff launched his final attack with 100 metres to go, leaving the lead group in his wake and crossing the line a metre ahead of his nearest rival.
The victory gives UAE Team Emirates its first big classic one-day race win and its eleventh victory of the season.
“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,” said jubilant Kristoff, adding that he is elated with the fact that he 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.”