Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 21 November 2019

Alexander Kristoff: After successful Road World Championships for UAE Team Emirates riders, it's back to team duties

Each week a cyclist or member of UAE Team Emirates writes for The National, providing insight from the UCI World Tour and offering their thoughts on the season

Alexander Kristoff placed seventh at the 2019 UCI Road World Championships. Courtesy UAE Team Emirates
Alexander Kristoff placed seventh at the 2019 UCI Road World Championships. Courtesy UAE Team Emirates

Well, what an epic day of racing that was in Yorkshire. I think I have only just managed to dry my gear off after a brutally wet 2019 UCI Road World Championships!

Alejandro Valverde, who won the race last year, said “it was a World Championship for madmen”. I actually enjoyed it, so I’ll take his comment as a compliment!

Because of the severe weather conditions, the race route was shortened the night before to avoid the worst of the flooding. This eliminated two of the longer climbs: Buttertubs and Grinton Moor. This made the course harder for some riders, but suited me a lot more as two extra laps of the finishing circuit in Harrogate were added.

Of the initial 197 riders to start the race just 46 finished, which proves how bad the weather conditions were. Yorkshire has some of the world’s most complicated cycling terrain at the best of times. Throw in a bone-chilling cold and wet day with vast puddles and slippery corners to negotiate and you’ve got a very tough and technical race on your hands.

Despite the conditions and not having obtained a place on the podium, it was an all-round good performance from UAE Team Emirates riders, with three of us finishing in the top-20.

It always feels a little strange to compete against my usual teammates and friends but I’m happy to see that all the hard work we have put in over the course of the season has paid off and we looked strong.

As I said before the race, Rui Costa and Tadej Pogacar were ones to look out for. Costa’s experience proved invaluable as the Portuguese ex World Champ finished in the top-10. Pogacar showed real class and commitment and finished 18th in his first ever World Championship, which was also a fantastic effort.

Traditionally, it’s the smaller and lighter guys that prefer the hilly races, but because the World Championships took place in such cold weather it suited the bigger and stronger guys in the bunch. I said before the race that I liked them long so was a bit disappointed to see the race shortened to 261km. However, I am pleased with my performance after finishing seventh against a strong group in front.

A big congratulations goes to Mads Pedersen of Denmark, who produced an electrifying finish to claim the rainbow jersey. Pedersen is the youngest world champion in 20 years and the first Danish man to win the title. It’s an amazing achievement and continues the trend of the young guys killing it in the pro peloton.

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Behind-the-scenes at the Vuelta a Espana with UAE Team Emirates

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For the team, all eyes now look forward to the final Monument on the cycling calendar, Il Lombardia. This is one of the most beautiful races of the season. It is nicknamed "The Race of the Falling Leaves" due to its autumnal scheduling – and despite coming right at the end of the season, riders and fans love it because it’s full of great roads and incredible scenery.

Now in its 113th edition, the Tour of Lombardy runs from Bergamo to Como across 243km of climbs and ends with a 3km descent to the finish line. The length of the course would usually match my characteristics but the parcours of Lombardia are super hilly and not suited to a power sprinter, so it’s not one I ever get to race.

I think a couple of our riders have got a chance though: Daniel Martin won the race in 2014 and was in the top-10 last year. If he times his attack correctly then he could be on course for another podium finish. Costa took third place five years ago and as I said before the Worlds, should never be underestimated in these big races. Diego Ulissi is also going so well at the moment, he could be in with an outside chance if he can build on his brilliant performances in Quebec and Montreal.

For me, the next thing I am focused on is swapping the cold, damp and rainy weather in Europe for the sunshine of the UAE. Myself and the rest of the team are flying out at the end of the month for our end of season camp. It’s important we do this as we get to bond as a team and get to know our new team mates who will join us next season. It also means we get to meet our fans!

So, if you’re a fan or a cyclist in the UAE – keep your eyes peeled! You might just see us out riding on one of the many beautiful tracks you guys have in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

Updated: October 3, 2019 12:05 PM

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