Alexander Kristoff is more than just a mentor. The 35-year-old’s move to Uno-X had a whiff of a veteran rounding out his career by passing the baton over to the next generation as the team makes its Tour de France debut.
But Kristoff, who has been defying talk of age-related decline years, proved he can contribute far more than his experience on Wednesday by winning the opening stage of the Volta ao Algarve.
“It’s always nice to win, but especially for my new team,” Kristoff told reporters in Lagos, including Cyclingnews.
“They expect a lot of me – that’s why they signed me. They want me to be a good role model for the young guys but also to get results.”
Kristoff might be far from his 2014-2017 heyday, but he has been a consistent winner of big races, and has now made it at least one win every season since 2011.
“I feel I’m slightly slower than a few years ago but it didn’t look like that this time,” he added. “A lot of the young kids are really fast but I was the first one over the line so still sometimes I can shine.”
In many ways it was a classic Kristoff victory: a hard slog more than pure speed.
Fabio Jakobsen, the overwhelming favourite, faded fast in the stiff headwind under Lagos’ gloomy skies, but Kristoff stamped on the pedals all the way to what he first believed was the finish line, and the extra 10 metres to the real finish line.
“It’s also a relief,” Kristoff said, describing the disappointment of his fourth-place finish at Sunday’s Clásica de Almería.
“I wasn’t happy with myself in Almería. I wasn’t strong enough. I was in such a good position but didn’t deliver. I put pressure on myself there because I want to perform – that’s why I do this. I was not too happy with myself but now I’m happy.”
Kristoff’s victory feels like an important moment for Uno-X, who have enjoyed a remarkable rise in recent years, tracing their roots to 2010 before rising to professional status in 2019.
They were looking to rise to the WorldTour ranks for 2023 but a Tour de France debut in July still makes this their biggest season to date, evolving from a ‘development’ team into a true force, even with ProTeam status.
“They work really like a WorldTour team already,” noted Kristoff – one of only two riders above the age of 30. “We have young guys but they perform like really experienced riders.
“We had the best lead-out here and at this level that’s not easy. In the end I only had to sprint for like 100 metres. It was delivered to me on a silver plate….
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