07/04/2015, CANYON Kristoff rides to greatness with second Monument victory
The Lion of Flanders
It is often said that cycling is like a religion in Flanders. If the fervour that grips the region during the Spring Classics is anything to go by, that may not be too far from the truth. For Flandrians the absolute pinnacle of any sport is “De Ronde”. The Tour of Flanders. Each year hundreds of thousands of local fans line the roads in solidarity with their race, united under their banner: De Leeuw van Vlaanderen, the Lion of Flanders. De Ronde is an event, a celebration, a Monument, one of the greatest spectacles in cycling. To win a Monument is to secure ones name in the history books, something Alexander Kristoff did for the second time in his career aboard the Aeroad CF SLX.
It takes a something special to taste success at the Tour of Flanders. The race resembles a 263 km long boxing match fought out along a route that purposefully seeks out every possible challenge going. The fight for position along narrow lanes, through tight corners and up impossibly steep cobbled climbs constantly ejects riders out the back door. Strong legs alone are not enough to stay up front, the Tour of Flanders demands constant focus and unparalleled tenacity to avoid being caught out.
All eyes were on Kristoff as the man to beat. After dominating the Three Days of De Panne earlier in the week it was clear he had the form. That showed in the final 30 km when he was the only rider to match Niki Terpstra’s acceleration after the Kruisberg. With the duo leading the race, Kristoff never let the Dutchman’s wheel get away from him up the final punishing ascents of the Oude Kwaremont and the Paterberg.
Heading towards the line the outcome of the two-up sprint was all but settled. Kristoff, one of the fastest finishers in the field, held off Terpstra’s challenge with ease to take home the second Monument of his career. Following triumph at Milan–San Remo last year, this victory carried extra special significance for Kristoff: “As a young kid I always dreamed of winning in Flanders and now the dream has come true.”
Team Katusha has enjoyed a hugely successful cobbled classics campaign so far, all of which could be brought to the perfect close next weekend at Paris-Roubaix. After Luca Paolini's heroics at Ghent-Wevelgema week earlier, Katusha have shown they have multiple options when gunning for the win and will be the team to watch.
The Hell of the North sits alongside the Tour of Flanders as the most punishing races in the world for riders and their equipment. With another Monument up for grabs, few would bet against the winning combination of Alexander Kristoff and the Aeroad CF SLX.