Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 15 November 2019

Alexander Kristoff: It will be weird competing against my UAE Team Emirates teammates at the Road World Championship

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

UAE Team Emirates rider Alexander Kristoff on his way to winning Stage 1 of the Tour de Slovaquie. BettiniPhoto
UAE Team Emirates rider Alexander Kristoff on his way to winning Stage 1 of the Tour de Slovaquie. BettiniPhoto

I can’t quite believe it’s nearly October. For cycling fans all over the world, that can only mean one thing – the 2019 UCI Road World Championships are nearly here.

In some ways it’s a good spot in the calendar to hold the Worlds, but for riders like me it makes for a really long season. I kicked mine off in February and have tried to be in the best condition I can for as long as I can. No rider can sustain winning form for the whole season, so we have to accept ups and downs in our performances and try to peak at the most important times of the year.

For the past eight months I’ve managed to take wins in the Tour of Oman, Gent Wevelgem, Tour of Norway, GP Canton d’Argovie, Tour of Germany and Tour of Slovakia. I‘ve also finished top three a number of times, so have been in the podium places every month. I am certainly happy with that level of consistency and it means I can go into the World Championships with a lot of confidence. The parcours appears to be hilly so I feel it could suit my characteristics if the pace race isn’t too high, meaning I can attack during the final parts of the course.

From my point of view, the course will be suitable for riders who are usually competitive on races like the Tour of Flanders. This year the Worlds take place in the UK. The Yorkshire course is the longest at a World Championships since 1976 and with 285 kilometres between the start and finish lines will mean around seven hours in the saddle. Not an easy day at all. As it’s near the end of the season, the weather could turn nasty too, so I think team tactics and rider motivations will play a huge part. If you get a bad day where it’s wet, windy and cold, that could make it even more difficult - which could play into my hands.

Just like the European Championships – which I won in 2017 – this event has a slightly different feel because we all race in our national colours and not in our team kit. So, whilst I’ll ride with Sven Erik Bystrom and Vegard Stake Laegern for Team Norway, I’ll have to compete against a lot of my friends and teammates from UAE Team Emirates.

I think a few of our riders have got a chance of winning, too. Some guys to watch out for are Rui Costa, Diego Ulissi and Tadej Pogacar; Costa was Portugal’s first Elite Men’s World Champion and is a very experienced rider who should never be underestimated in the big races. That experience could give him an edge. Ulissi finished fourth in Quebec and second in Montreal recently, so he’s a rider in very good form right now. Pogacar is definitely a man of the moment after his Vuelta performance. The course is quite different from the stages he won in Spain, but Pogacar is so talented he could be an outsider for this one.

For the winner of the race, the prized Rainbow Jersey is up for grabs. It’s an iconic top that they earn the right to wear next season in all one-day road races or road stages. Former world champions never lose their rainbow stripes either, so you often see the rainbow colours on the sleeve cuffs or collars of previous winners.

Back in 2017 the race was in my home country and I missed out on the victory to Peter Sagan by a few centimetres, so that makes me even more motivated to do well in Yorkshire and try to add a world champion’s jersey to the European champion’s jersey I won two years ago.

Whilst I would love to win this for myself, my country and my team, I am still super excited to know that whatever happens on Sunday, I will at least go into the start of next season with a UAE Team Emirates jersey on my back and compete for victories on the WorldTour for another year.

Updated: September 27, 2019 08:39 AM

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