Norway’s Alexander Kristoff went into the Paris-Roubaix touted as the favorite to win, but sadly its rare the betting matches reality in cycling
The Paris-Roubaix is one of the toughest cycle races in the world. The weather conditions are never perfect, the road surfaces are varied, and the will amongst the field to win is as high as you’ll find outside the Tour De France and it’s associated insta-fame. The Paris-Roubaix is a riders race, and going into this 260km slog a lot of eyes were on the Norwegian Alexander Kristoff whose form has been spot on and looked every bit the winner. Alas on the day, he fell short, but the race didn’t.
Doubtless those that took advantage of Norwegian gambling laws to back their man to take the win will be disappointed by his tenth place finish however he himself was quite stoic about it. This is, after all, one of the five big single day classics and everyone wants to win, and despite his recent run of victories even the likes of Kristoff can find it hard going. They don’t call it “The Hell Of The North” for nothing, although the post-world war one origins of that name are actually long gone.
“I didn’t really follow so many attacks because I was on the limit there at the end. I don’t like the flat cobbles as much as those on the climbs so I knew it would be a difficult day for me. Still in the end I felt I did a pretty good race but still I was missing something to be among the best,” he told the press. “I am pleased with the day. I would have liked it with some teammates at the end, but do not know if it would have made any difference.”
Degenkolb Takes Second Major Classic
This modesty is a mark of a maturing rider, who now moves on to resting up before preparations for the jewel in cycling’s crown, The Tour De France, in July. Even his congratulations of the winner, German John Degenkolb (riding for Giant-Alpecin) were tinged with personal self-effacement “Degenkolb is a great rider and he showed that today.” He said. “He’s a strong rider and he deserved the victory, chapeau to him. I wasn’t strong enough today to follow those guys.”
“This is the race I’ve always dreamed of winning.” Degenkolb said after the race, his performance superb throughout and his sprint finish timed to perfection. Having won the Milan-San Remo last month he’s entitled to be “just so happy and proud” as he told the media, but it does leave Kristoff with a gap on his trophy shelf that many, including his Katusha team, expected him to fill on the weekend.
But the Paris-Roubaix is never predictable.
• Kristoff’s form not enough
• Rolls home in tenth place
• Nearly rides under train
Last year Kristoff suffered a puncture in the Arenberg Forest, and he himself points out that he’s never finished the race in the leading group, but this year there was a will for him to win, with ComeOn! Sportsbook giving him favorite status for those that like to bet on sports in Norway. It should be noted that the eventual winner was getting odds of just 7.75 before the race, which was a nice bet for those that took them up on it.
Dodging The Train And The Bullet
“Regardless of what the media was saying that I would win, in my mind I always felt it would be a surprise if I won here today.” Admitted Kristoff, adding. “In my previous years at Roubaix I was never too close but today I felt I was not too far away.” Which is broadly true, but still means he’ll be hungry for a win next year. If, of course, he doesn’t get mown down by a train in the meantime. Something that very nearly happened in this year’s race.
When the barriers came down at a level crossing to allow the passage of a TVG (high speed French train) a number of the riders, including Kristoff, decided to ignore them and carry on, apparently gambling news reports the next day would not be of their mutilated corpses. This is strictly against UCI regulations and officials quickly stopped the riders to allow those who weren’t so stupid to catch up. Kristoff himself spoke of the incident afterward.
“It was a bit on the limit and I was a bit far behind,” he admitted, “so I crawled under the boom. I checked that it was clear, and the train was still a good distance away.” Which is absolutely no excuse and it might have gone badly for the teams and riders involved had the French officials not decided that they couldn’t identify all the riders involved in this flagrant rule breaking. All eyes now turn to the Tour De France where one hopes the officials will be paying more attention.