Alexander Kristoff sprints to race lead

Cycling: 40th 3 Days De Panne 2016 / Stage 1/ Arrival / Alexander KRISTOFF (Nor) Celebration Joie Vreugde / De Panne - Zottegem (198,2Km)/ Daagse Jours / Rit Etape ? Tim De Waele

Cycling: 40th 3 Days De Panne 2016 / Stage 1/
Arrival / Alexander KRISTOFF (Nor) Celebration Joie Vreugde / De Panne – Zottegem (198,2Km)/ Daagse Jours / Rit Etape ? Tim De Waele

With a tremendous turn of speed at the end of a long day, Team KATUSHA?s Alexander Kristoff held off a duo of challengers to earn the victory in Zottegem on Tuesday for stage 1 of the 40th Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde. At 198,2 km, the stage began in De Panne with a fast pace and plenty of wind on course.
– This was really hard today. I wasn?t feeling strong at all. Actually, Westra was the strongest in our group. He pulled me and Lutsenko almost all the way to the line. I tried to contribute but I didn?t really have the legs. I had already said through the radio that I was not feeling so well with 2 laps to go. At the end I still managed to survive and be there to win. I?ve been a little bit sick these past few days so I hope I can have better legs tomorrow, – said stage 1 winner and general classification leader Alexander Kristoff. Kristoff rides as the defending champion from 2015.
Under instructions to be in front and with the help of Michael M?rk?v, Kristoff put himself in a long break that eventually saw him pitted against Lieuwe Westra and Alexey Lutsenko of Astana. With numbers in their favor, Westra and Lutsenko had the possibility of making the final hard for Kristoff, but the Norwegian rider was attentive and patient, finally sprinting away from the duo in the last 50 meters to claim victory with a time of 4:22.34 (45.291 km/h). Lutsenko and Westra completed the podium and join Kristoff at the top of the classification at 1- and six-seconds respectively.
– Both of them were riding for the classification and now they are in a good position. I am not feeling as strong as I did here last year so I?m not sure about doing a good time trial, but I will try and we?ll see how things go. I felt good at the start but then after about 100 km I didn?t feel so well, but I think this was the same for everyone. It was a fast start. We knew it would be hard. My director Torsten Schmidt said we had to be in the front because echelons would be forming and he was right, – concluded Alexander Kristoff. KATUSHA teammate Marco Haller sprinted in with the group at 36-seconds to earn tenth place on the stage.
Coming off a remarkable season of 20 wins in 2015, Alexander Kristoff, 28, has already amassed six wins for this year, starting back in February with wins in Qatar. As last year?s winner of the Tour of Flanders, Kristoff looks to defend his title in Sunday?s race.
Stage 2 on Wednesday at Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde (2.HC) is from Zottegem to Koksijde at 211,1 km.