Commentators agree that Norwegian cyclist Alexander Kristoff has been under-performing during this year’s Tour de France. After yet another disappointing day on the saddle, teammate Joaquim Rodriguez’ victory in the 12th lap on Thursday helped ease some of the pressure and gave their Russian Team Katusha something to cheer about.
“This victory relieves the pressure on both Rodriguez and Kristoff,” said the latter’s Norwegian teammate Sven Erik Bystrøm. He’s not cycling in the Tour de France, himself but is working as an expert commentator for state broadcaster NRK. “This was incredibly important. The team’s bosses are certainly more satisfied now.”
Kristoff was tapped as captain of Katusha’s Tour de France team after performing brilliantly earlier in the season. “Le Tour” has since been a downturn. Adding to his poor showings was the shock earlier this week of losing one of his most important support cyclists on the team, Luca Paolini, who was thrown out of the Tour de France after testing positive for cocaine use. Paolini’s doping has been the biggest scandal in the race so far this year.
“That was tragic,” Bystrøm, a world champion in the under-age-23 class, told NRK. “Doping hurts the team’s reputation … but winning a lap is like a new beginning. That’s the only thing they’re thinking about.”
Both Kristoff and the only other Norwegian in the race, Edvald Boasson Hagen, finished Thursday’s lap nearly 37 minutes behind the winner, barely meeting the time limit for the racers. Kristoff was hoping for a new chance on Friday but was also struggling with the intense heat in France after his coach called on the public to help with offering cold water that the riders can douse themselves with.