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Kristoff: I need better form to win Sanremo

MACON, France (VN) — Despite a strong start to the 2016 season that includes five victories in his first two stage races, Katusha’s Alexander Kristoff said he needs to be stronger if he hopes to win a second Milano-Sanremo title.

Racing this week through cold and wet weather at Paris-Nice, Kristoff is winless so far going into Thursday’s sprint stage. He admitted he’s not quite in top shape ahead of the season’s first major classic.

“I need a little bit better form than I do now to hope to win at Sanremo,” the 28-year-old Kristoff told VeloNews at the start line Thursday. “I need to train a little more.”

Kristoff’s Sanremo victory in 2014 catapulted him into the elite, setting the groundwork for his even more impressive 2015 season in which he won Ronde van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders) and GP Scheldeprijs. Despite a hot start to 2016, with three stage wins in Qatar and two in Oman, as well as second at Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, Kristoff didn’t sound overly optimistic ahead of the March 19 Italian classic.

“There’s still time to train before Sanremo,” he said. “There is still time to get the rhythm. The goal is to be in top shape for the northern classics.”

It’s been hard to measure up Kristoff against the other sprint rivals so far in this Paris-Nice. Bitter cold, wind, rain, snow, and demanding course profiles made the opening two sprints in Paris-Nice a challenge for the bigger sprinters like Kristoff, Lotto-Soudal’s André Greipel, and Etixx– Quick-Step’s Marcel Kittel. Kristoff didn’t make the finale Monday as the course tackled a hard climb and dirt roads on a finishing circuit, and Tuesday he kicked to fourth behind Nacer Bouhanni of Cofidis and race leader Michael Matthews of Orica– GreenEdge).

“It’s been hard racing conditions here, but that’s normal,” Kristoff said. “I lost position [Tuesday] with 2km to go, and I really had to fight hard to get back to the front. Today is our last chance, and I hope to win.”

After Paris-Nice, Kristoff returns to his native Norway to train ahead of Sanremo and his approach to the northern classics. With a win in 2014 and second last year to Giant – Alpecin rider John Degenkolb, Kristoff knows a strong Sanremo is a good indicator for April.