Alexandre Kristof (34) was no better than the ninth seed at Paris-Roubaix, but he dreams of winning the cobbled classics. More proper equipment is key to him and coach Stein Oren, as they believe in the very best professionally possible in this year’s edition.
– I feel like I walk better on pebbles now than before. It probably has something to do with the fact that I have wider tires, so that I glide better over the cobblestones. I think it’s an even bigger advantage if you’re a heavier rider. When I switched to 30mm-wide tires last year, it was a huge step in the right direction. And now, on 32mm tires, it looks even better, Christophe tells VG.
On Thursday, he was on an expedition over most of the 30 cobbled sectors in the race, and was very pleased with the answers he received.
– I have never felt better on the cobblestone than the way you rolled those stones yesterday (Thursday). It counts well, but I wasn’t even close to winning. He says I will suddenly be at the top on Sunday, it will surprise me a bit.
– What do you think is realistic?
Realism is the top ten. It might be realistic with the podium too, but on top of the podium…it’s a dream, but it’s very difficult. If all goes well, the podium is at hand, says the 34-year-old.
For years, the cycling media, both nationally and internationally, has asked the same question of Alexandre Christophe – why not be better on the flat cobbled stone of Paris-Roubaix, when he is so good on the steep cobblestone slopes of Flanders?
Christophe won the Belgian cobbled race in 2015. In eleven attempts, he has never been worse than No. 18, and has finished in the top five seven times.
In eleven copies at Paris-Roubaix, he broke four times and finished “only” three times out of the first fifteen.
Crashing, punctures, and other technical issues have ruined many versions of Christoph, who has also been open about this. “He doesn’t really like cobblestones.” former.
Ahead of this year’s Paris-Roubaix conference, Christophe remains optimistic. Trainer Stein Oren believes that rides like Flanders are increasingly dominated by lighter riders. Kristof himself has always been a strong racer, struggling up the slopes and putting in good pressure both on the surfaces and in the sprint. The impact of the weight on the steep slopes of Flanders is far from zero in the flat Paris-Roubaix.
Although Kristof had some of his best times on the slopes during this year’s Tour of Flanders, he had to watch his rivals disappear from him. In the end, he drove, finishing perfectly, to 10th place.
Three days later, he impressed the frog Scheldeprijs so much, when he took a solo win for the first time since 2009 – after colliding from the rest of the close group with seven kilometers remaining.
I drive faster than I have done all other years, but the level is higher. I’ll probably be as good as the years I won and wrecked it, but the level will probably only be higher. I can’t do much with it, besides improving myself. It’s harder to get better when you’re 34, says Christoph, than when you’re 25.
– The main problem is that he has never had the opportunity to drive with the best equipment, says his stepfather and coach Stein Ørn about the student’s previous Roubaix posts.
He thinks a move to 32mm tires would be a huge advantage, having previously driven mostly 26-28mm tires at Paris-Roubaix earlier in his career. On Kristof’s previous team, he did not have the opportunity to drive on tires up to 32 mm wide.
– When you’re driving at 26mm and punching, that’s to be expected. If he doesn’t get into an accident, I hope he gets his best position ever. What it will be like, says Oren, depends on the choices he makes.
– I know that when I didn’t punch or crash or have other technical issues, I was in the top 10 both times. 32mm increases the chances of avoiding problems, says Christophe with cautious optimism.
One area where he’s a little concerned is the final race itself. For years, Kristof has been known for unrivaled demand on long-haul flights, but in both Gent-Weilgem (248.8 km) and around Flanders (272.5 km) earlier this year, he had to see himself beaten hard. Before Paris-Roubaix (257.2 kilometers), he admitted that the enemy is not quite as it should be.
– I haven’t felt good at sprints the past few races. It would have been better if I came alone, as I did last time.
“I usually do these races, so it worries me if I get on a racetrack and I’m not 100 percent sure I’m going to race,” says Christoph.
Another equipment development that has received a lot of attention towards racing is one Air Compression Technology That DSM Team Will Use. It should give riders the opportunity to adjust the air pressure during the race. Over cobblestone, it is an advantage to have lower air pressure, while you want higher air pressure on the asphalt to be able to turn as fast as possible.
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Kristof says it all sounds “fanciful,” but he’s excited to see exactly how it will work.
It’s possible that there are some that could go wrong, but we’ll see. It’s new, so it might work at first.
A little taste of it will come at the Ladies’ Paris-Roubaix, which rides on Saturday.
While Alexander Christophe suffered a lot at Paris-Roubaix, it was the opposite for Thor Hushovd. Sørlendingen has never made it to Flanders, but has twice made it onto the podium at Paris-Roubaix.
VG sent Hushovd some questions regarding both the Kristoff tires and the DSM’s air pressure technology. The answer came in cash:
“Legs that decide, do not cover.”
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