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The bold ‘n’ brash Uno-X outfit is looking to ride in the illustrious tracks of the former Milan-San Remo and Tour of Flanders champion in 2023.
“Kristoff is not in Uno-X for retirement purposes. He has 86 UCI victories at the moment, he’s in Uno-X to try to chase down a 100th win,” team boss Jens Haugland told VeloNews.
“He’s here to keep winning, and equally, he’s here to help lift the whole system. He will be great for us.”
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Uno-X roars toward a Tour de France debut in the summer and hunts a coveted spot at the top of the ProTeam register.
This winter saw Kristoff and former Ineos Grenadiers director Gabriel Rash join the Scandi crew as it looks for experienced heads to inform its masterplan to rise to the top of pro cycling, and to do it fast.
“If you look at Intermarché-Circus-Wanty last year, one of the reasons that they performed so well was because of Alexander. He lifts the whole system and you can see they’re continuing that confidence without him so far this year,” Haugland said in a recent call.
“He can change a team for good, and that’s what makes him so important for us.”
Kristoff joined Uno-X on a three-year deal that will see the Norwegian powerhouse through toward retirement.
At 35 years old, Kristoff brings a full decade extra know-how to a roster that includes 16 riders younger than 25 years of age.
But despite being one of pro cycling’s elder statesmen, Kristoff continues to crush.
Five more victories in 2022 including the gutsy solo forhonors reconfirmed him as one of the peloton’s winningest active riders, and saw him good for eighth in the UCI ranking.
That’s one spot higher than Mathieu van der Poel, and a handful of points from both sixth and seventh-ranked Arnaud de Lie and Stefan Küng.
“He’s world-class, a rider that doesn’t often get the credit he deserves,” Haugland lauded. “He will be a fantastic role model for this young team.”
Channeling the ‘Van Aert effect’
Uno-X is resting some weighty burden on Kristoff’s broad shoulders in 2023.
The team wants a position at the top of the ProTeam ranking to gain auto wildcards for future WorldTour races, and needs marquee victories to support its search for added sponsors.
“Riders like Alex, they bring something. Look at Alpecin-Deceuninck and how they’re raised by Mathieu van der Poel, look at Jumbo-Visma when they have Van Aert,” Haugland said.
“You see that the whole team is profiting from these incredible riders. For us, Alexander is such a guy, and we want to make the best out of him.”
But Kristoff’s monument trophies of the middle of last decade are starting to gather dust.
The classics landscape shifted entirely since Kristoff’s 20-something heyday as explosive swashbucklers like Van Aert, Van der Poel and Tadej Pogačar reshape modern racing.
“Alex knows what he’s capable of, and I think he knows his limitations as well. He has no problems with racing against those guys. He knows that sometimes he can beat them, other times he’s just not fast enough,” Haugland said.
“He’s very honest about that. And we have full confidence in him. We wouldn’t have signed him otherwise.”
If nothing else, Kristoff’s bloody-minded grit makes a perfect match for a team that’s bold in its ambition and loud in its outlook.
“He never gives up. He never stops and says ‘it’s not possible.’ He has this mentality that, some days, every star will be in the right direction and he will win, and if not, he’s still up there,” Haugland said.
Kristoff narrowly missed the podium Sunday at the Clasica de Almeria. A “character building” spin through the hilly Volta ao Algarve this week is next on the slate for the 170-pound Scandinavian.
From there, the classics are coming, and Kristoff’s relentless march will continue.