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by Shane Stokes
April 9, 2015
Photography by Cor Vos
Notching up what is a staggering 11th win this season and his sixth in the past nine days, Alexander Kristoff followed up on victory in last Sunday’s Tour of Flanders when he took the Scheldeprijs race on Wednesday.
The Norwegian avoided a huge crash inside the final kilometre, staying out of trouble and then winning a vastly reduced 14 man sprint to the line.
The crash took out rivals such as Andrea Guardini (Astana), Elia Viviani (Sky) and Sam Bennett (Bora-Argon18), making Kristoff’s push to the line a straightforward one. He went long in the sprint and easily beat Edward Theuns (Topsport Vlaanderen – Baloise), Yauheni Hutarovich (Bretagne-Séché Environnement), Marc Sarreau (FDJ.fr) and others.
Danny Van Poppel (Trek Factory Racing) and Matteo Trentin (Etixx – QuickStep) were fifth and sixth, while former winner and last year’s runner-up Tyler Farrar (MTN-Qhubeka) was slightly delayed by the fall but recovered to net ninth.
Australia’s Mark Renshaw, who had been Etixx-QuickStep’s designated sprinter in Mark Cavendish’s absence, was also delayed and finished 11 seconds back in 17th place.
Kristoff had said before the start that he was determined to keep moving forward rather than basking in the success of his Tour of Flanders win and remained true to his word, keeping his remarkable run of results going.
He said that his team’s efforts were important, both in putting him in the right position to win and also in avoiding the crash.
“With two kilometres to go we were way too far back and we used a lot of energy to come back to the front,” he stated. “We just made it before this big crash so we were quite lucky, actually, that we made it to the front. Then I heard a big crash behind. If we were two seconds later for sure we would be in this crash.
“Sometimes you need some luck and for the moment it seems like everything is going my way. So I have to enjoy it when it lasts because maybe on Sunday [it will change]. Last year I had really bad luck puncturing in Arenberg and two crashes after, so you never know what is going to happen.”
Unlike some of his big rivals for Paris-Roubaix on Sunday, Kristoff decided to ride and believed that doing so better suited him. He told CyclingTips prior to the start on Wednesday that if he didn’t race he would have to train, and that he preferred the adrenaline of racing.
The 200 kilometre race started in the prosperous city of Antwerp but was missing the presence of some of the sport’s top sprinters, namely Marcel Kittel (Giant-Alpecin), Mark Cavendish (Etixx-QuickStep) and Andre Greipel (Lotto Soudal).
Early on seen riders nipped clear, with Laurens De Vreese (Astana), Kenneth Van Bilsen (Cofidis), Huub Duyn (Roompot), Matteo Busato (Southeast), Tanner Putt (UnitedHealthcare), Vincent Jérôme (Europcar) and Frederik Backaert (Wanty-Groupe Gobert) building a lead of almost five minutes.
However hard chasing by Kristoff’s Katusha team and Tinkoff-Saxo ate into that advantage and ensured that the leaders were just a minute clear inside 25 kilometres to go. Other sprinters’ teams also joined in and this spelt the end of the move, with De Vreese attacking hard alone and being joined by Duyn.
They were finally reeled in with exactly four kilometres to go, after which the fastmen pushed forward for what they believed would be a huge bunch sprint.
That intention unravelled for many, though, when a tangle between several riders brought them down and led to a slew of others also hitting the deck.
Kristoff was in the right place and avoided the mayhem and, with some of the race’s fastest sprinters on the deck, had a relatively simple task to nab his sixth win in little over a week.
He noted that Katusha’s support has been building up gradually and this year has been part of him reaching the next level.
“Now the team works very well and we are more a good unit at the end, and also during the race,” he said. “It saves me energy. It is very important for the end to save some energy.”