Apr 5, 2015 – What a wild ride it was, for about a week, starting out winning three of the four stages at the Three Days of De Panne, then moving onto winning (outright winning) the Tour of Flanders. Alexander Kristoff has never looked better, and we’ve never had a better look at him. So, without further a do, we present the 2015 Tour of Flanders courtesy of our photographer Kåre Dehlie Thorstad. Feel free to read the story directly from Kristoff himself below.

AFP

Alexander Kristoff said it had been the best week of his career after becoming the first Norwegian to win the Tour of Flanders.

The 27-year-old beat Niki Terpstra in a sprint finish to claim his second prestigious victory in a ‘Monument’ race following success at Milan-San Remo last year. And in a week in which he began by claiming three out of four stages and the overall title at Three Days of De Panne, the Katusha rider was clearly delighted.

“It’s been a great week with three wins in De Panne and the overall, but I was a little tired after this and worried for today,” admitted Kristoff.

“Also, at the start I was tired but I started to loosen up on the climbs and feel better and better. “But it’s been a great week with all these wins, maybe the best week of my career.”

Kristoff was the only rider to react when Terpstra, winner of Paris-Roubaix last year, attacked 30km from home on the Kruisberg climb. The pair built up a lead of 30sec on the chasing pack and when they came into the final kilometer together, specialist sprinter Kristoff was always going to be a clear favorite to win.

“Terpstra’s attack was a little bit early but I didn’t want to let him go away,” said Kristoff.

“He’s really strong, we got a good gap and I managed to get the rhythm and contribute. We were working well and kept our distance. “At the end, he said he can’t work with me but I said ‘come on, at worst you’ll get second’!

“I was pretty confident I would beat him but I was still saving a little bit to have something left for the sprint. “It was a great feeling when I saw he couldnt pass me.”

Behind the front pair, Belgium’s Greg Van Avermaet made an attack on the final climb, the Paterberg, in a bid to catch the leaders, taking Peter Sagan of Slovakia with him. Van Avermaet finished second last year but had to settle for third this time as he failed to drag back the leaders, although he dropped the faster finishing Sagan in the final kilometer.

“In the end, I am happy I am on the podium,” Van Avermaet said. “I had the legs to win, I think. I was feeling really good the whole day.”

However, he said that last year when he made a break with Stijn Vandenbergh, his compatriot would not work with him knowing full well he could not beat Van Avermaet in a sprint finish, allowing eventual winner Fabian Cancellara and Sep Vanmarcke to catch them.

Yet this time, there was sufficient co-operation between the front two to keep him and Sagan at bay. “I was just hoping they would wait for me a little bit because Kristoff is so much faster than Terpstra in the sprint and last year they didn’t want to ride with me when I was with Stijn Vanderdenbergh,” said Van Avermaet. “So I was hoping today I could come back. But I couldn’t make it anymore.”

Pre-race favorite Geraint Thomas ended up 14th and admitted he didn’t have the legs to follow the breakaways. The Team Sky leader tried to attack on the penultimate Kwaremont climb but was brought back and ended up in the third group on the road, where no-one wanted to lead the chase.

“It’s Flanders and it’s obviously a hard race. I just lacked that punch which I had last week on the Kwaremont,” said Thomas, referring to his victory at E3 Harelbeke which uses many of the same climbs as Flanders. “I had to have a go as the boys road so well all day for me. I just didn’t quite have the legs at the end.”

Here is an additional Factfile on today’s winner:

Full name: Alexander Kristoff
Date of birth: July 5, 1987
Place of birth: Oslo, Norway
Height: 1.83m
Weight: 78kg
Nationality: Norwegian

Teams: Maxbo-Bianchi (2007), Joker-Bianchi (2008-2009), BMC (2010-2011), Katusha (current)

Main victories:
–Grand Tours: Tour de France (two stages in 2014)
–One-day Classics: Milan-San Remo (2014), Tour of Flanders (2015)
–Stage races: Three Days of De Panne (2015)
–One-day races: Norwegian Championships (2007, 2011), Olympic Games (bronze in 2012)