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Concluding negotiations with the teams keen to sign him for 2016, Alexander Kristoff has opted to remain with Team Katusha, the squad with whom he has raced since 2012.
The 27 year old rider has thus far been the most successful rider of this season. He has clocked up eleven wins, including the most recent results of three stage victories plus the overall in the Three Days of De Panne, the Tour of Flanders Classic and also Scheldeprijs.
“It is unbelievable how the team was going the last months. They all worked so hard for me,” said Kristoff, explaining his decision on Friday. “The teammates trust me and I trust them. For the first time I could work from a sprinter’s train. Our newly arrived riders all proved to be the right choices.
“I had a contract till the end of this year but my hope was to be able to stay with this winning team. It didn’t take us so long to reach a new agreement. I am very happy.”
Speaking recently to CyclingTips, Kristoff’s stepfather and coach Stein Orn said that Katusha and Sky were two of the teams foremost in the running.
“What I can say is that Sky is a brilliant team in terms of their anti-doping policy, which I like very much. I think they have been doing a lot of extremely good things. I actually cooperated with them during the years of Edvald [Boasson Hagen] because of stomach problems. That actually led up to his second place in the worlds just after the Olympics. So that was a really good collaboration, there was a really good team and good group and good resources. But of course they are quite stringent in other matters.
“But at the same time Alexander is riding for a Russian team. I must say at a personal level I have been working now with Katusha and I must say I am really impressed by their internal cleanliness, the tidiness, the way they work. Of course Alexander comes in with a very up front anti-doping attitude and I have been double checking and cross checking in different ways. I have never, ever experienced anything suspicious with regard to Katusha’s relationship to Alexander.
“If I noticed that at any second, if I had any doubts about that, I would pull him out immediately. In his contract there is a clause that says that. If he signs again there will be again as well.”
He said that one consideration about whether or not Kristoff should go to Sky was how much freedom he would get in races such as the Tour de France. The-then world champion Mark Cavendish expressed frustration in 2012 when he was unable to get full support in the race, saying he would have won more stages had the team backed him more.
It was concentrating on helping Bradley Wiggins win the race; with riders like Chris Froome and Richie Porte on board and capable of taking yellow, Orn acknowledged that there could be a potential issue.
Katusha general manger Viacheslav Ekimov said the team was excited about the new contract. “We’ve built a strong relationship with him these last years and Alexander Kristoff proved to be the rider on which we can build further in the coming years. We can’t wait to see what we’ll be able to accomplish in the near and distant future,” he stated.
“It was a pleasure as well to see that Alex’s victories were contagious to our other riders. In addition Sergei Chernetckii, Luca Paolini and Joaquim Rodriguez all won WorldTour races this season. We never had such a good spring as this one in 2015. It is the right moment to build further on the future of our team. Alexander Kristoff was the logical first rider to re-sign. More riders will follow.”
Kristoff is currently taking a break from racing in order to build up for the Tour de France and world championships. He will return to competition on May 1 in the Rund um den Finanzplatz Eschborn-Frankfurt in Germany.