Norwegian rider makes debut for UAE Team Emirates at Dubai Tour, which gets under way on Tuesday, before proceeding to Tour of Oman and Abu Dhabi Tour
New UAE Team Emirates rider Alexander Kristoff 'looking forward to get started' at Dubai Tour
Alexander Kristoff intends to use the three-leg Gulf Round, starting with the Dubai Tour, as a pathway to prepare for cycling's "spring classics".
The Norwegian rider makes his debut for the UAE Team Emirates at the six-day Dubai Tour, which gets under way on Tuesday, before moving on to the Tour of Oman (February 13-18) and the Abu Dhabi Tour (February 20-25). The spring classics include the Milan-San Remo event, the four-race "cobbled classics" and the three-race "Ardennes classics" - all held in March and April across Europe.
“It is kind of starting at home ground for the team, so this season-opener will be more important than usually for me,” Kristoff said during a meet-and-greet event with 800 children at Gems American Academy in Abu Dhabi on Sunday.
“I have good impressions at the start of the season. I think I will be fighting amongst the best.
“If I managed to win one stage I will be happy but I know the level of sprinters here is already high. It will be difficult but I’m in pretty decent shape and looking forward to get started.”
Kristoff, 30, says he would have been in better shape had he started his season with the Tour Down Under or races in Argentina. But he adds competing in the Arabian Gulf, especially in Dubai, is a key part of his season.
“I have won [a] race in Oman last year," he says. "I hope I can grab some wins before my main goals kicking off for the season."
Kristoff concedes it is always a challenge to build a team, referring to the emergence of the UAE Team Emirates on the world stage, but he is nonetheless confident an even better season is in store following an impressive first year on the circuit.
“Everything looked very nice and it was certain they wanted to build on that, and they signed some good riders,” the reigning UEC European Road champion said. “Already with me, Dan Martin, [Fabio] Aru ... for sure the team is looking stronger than last year."
However, Kristoff warns it will take time to get used to riding together. “I don’t except miracles but during the season we will see more and more work being put together,” he said.
“That’s the reason for me to change. I want to fight in the sprints and in the classics. They [the team] were backing me on this and that’s my goal to participate in this kind of races.”
Kristoff moved to the UAE outfit after spending five years at Team Katusha-Alpecin. He said his reason for leaving the Russian team was stagnation.
"I felt that I couldn’t get anywhere. I didn’t develop [further] and in my mind I thought it will be good to change. A new team and new equipment, and hopefully it can help me to get to the next level. We will see if it works or not.”
Other members in the team include the 29-year-old Emirati Yousif Mirza and former Under 23 World Champion Sven Erik Bystrom, who arrives in Dubai with a race in San Juan, Argentina, under his belt.
“I’m really feeling proud to be part of this team with many, many champions around me,” Mirza said.
“It’s a good experience for me to represent the country as a local rider. With step-by-step I want to reach a good level in this team and a good opportunity for me to share the good moments with my teammates.”