Kristoff saddled up for ‘Le Tour’

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Alexander Kristoff is one of only two Norwegians cycling in this year’s Tour de France, which starts rolling on Saturday. He has one of the highest-status starting points for a Norwegian ever, though, as captain of his Russian Team Katusha.

Norwegian cyclist Alexander Kristoff is front and center in this year's team photo for Katusha's roster at the Tour de France. It's a rare honour that's never before been bestowed by an international cycling team on a Norwegian. PHOTO: Team Katusha

Norwegian cyclist Alexander Kristoff is front and center in this year’s team photo for Katusha’s roster at the Tour de France. It’s a rare honour that’s never before been bestowed by an international cycling team on a Norwegian. PHOTO: Team Katusha

“This is both historic and special,” Kristoff’s manager and stepfather, Stein Ørn, told newspaper Dagsavisen on Friday. Kristoff is at the center of Katusha’s team photo, an honour not even Norwegian cycling ace Thor Hushovd enjoyed after winning 10 lap victories during his career. Ørn claimed that no international cycling team has stood stronger behind a Norwegian captain.

Kristoff, who was fighting off some stomach trouble just two days before the race started, doesn’t even have much chance of winning “Le Tour,” because he readily admits that he doesn’t excel on on the uphill climbs. He’s very good, however, in other laps and has just wound up an outstanding spring season, with no less than 18 lap victories in major races to his credit.

That’s made the 27-year-old Kristoff the most-winning cyclist in the world so far this year as he heads into the most famous race of them all. It begins, as in previous years, outside France, with warm-up rounds from Utrecht in the Netherlands before crossing into France and eventually winding up in Paris on July 26. He told state broadcaster NRK on Friday afternoon that perhaps his upset stomach was a case of nerves. “But I haven’t felt nervous, so this was a bit odd,” he said. “I’m better today, so it will be alright.”

Also riding from Norway will be Edvald Boasson Hagen, now age 28, who’ll be cycling for the South African team MTN-Qhubeka. While Kristoff is known as a sprinter, Hagen is a solid all-around cyclist who’s been making a comeback this season and has two lap victories from the Tour de France under his belt. He has also claimed three victories in other races this year.

That pales to the 18 logged by Kristoff but he “only” holds two lap victories in the Tour de France. He’ll clearly be racing for more when the Katusha riders take off this week.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund