Alexander Kristoff: I cannot wait for the Tour de France to start

In the latest column from UAE Team Emirates, Norwegian rider is raring to go ahead of cycling's greatest race that starts on Saturday

Milano Sanremo 2020 - 111th Edition - Milano - Sanremo 305 km - 08/08/2020 - Alexander Kristoff (NOR - UAE - Team Emirates) - photo Luca Bettini/BettiniPhoto©2020
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It’s Tour de France time! The Tour that every rider wants to ride in and has dreamt of winning since watching on the TV as a child. It sticks out in every cyclist’s calendar and is a race that is watched all over the world.

At one stage we didn’t think the Tour would even happen this year so I feel lucky that it's going ahead and we have the chance to compete again on the biggest stage. I can’t wait for it all to kick off this Saturday.

The Grand Tours are renowned for being both mentally and physically tough, but I feel like I am in perfect shape after some very intense training leading up to this.

The Criterium du Dauphine was really hard as we had brutal climbs to contend with every day, but I am stronger now for getting through it.

I am a rider who normally needs a lot of racing to really get in top shape, but I think the lockdown has affected me in a positive way.

My wife gave birth to twins at the beginning so I was able to switch off and spend some precious time with them – time I otherwise would have normally been on the road for. This has helped me mentally a lot.

This will be a Tour like no other for obvious reasons which makes it even more unpredictable than usual and exciting to be a part of.

I am hoping for a stage win, although there aren’t too many opportunities for the sprinters with a lot of mountainous stages and ascents for the climbers.

We’re lucky to have such a strong and well-balanced roster to choose from and I think the team we have selected will be very competitive.

During my time as a professional cyclist as a sprinter I’ve been used to the team pulling together and working to put me in the best possible positions to win.

Now, I am prepared to make the required sacrifices to help our guys looking to do well in the GC, like Tadej Pogacar.

When younger riders are in the team, like Tadej, they look up to the older guys a lot. Now I am in that position, I feel a sense of responsibility to look out for them and share my knowledge and experience.

Tadej will be racing in his first Tour de France but after his performances at the Vuelta last year I have no doubt he will perform well.

I’ve told him to try and stay as relaxed as possible and take it one day at a time. He’s already a very chilled out guy so will have no issues with following my advice.

Tour de France 2019 - 106th Edition - 18th stage Embrun - Valloire 207 km - 25/07/2019 - Fabio Aru (ITA - UAE - Team Emirates) - Col du Galibier - photo Luca Bettini/BettiniPhoto©2019

We’ve made a great start to the season as a team and the five-month stoppage hasn’t slowed us down. We’re coming into the Tour with 18 victories and 43 podiums under our belts so we’re arriving with momentum on our side after a fantastic run.

It’s hard to predict how this year’s Tour will pan out. It’s a very hard route but I think with the squad we have we will be very competitive.

The team is definitely stronger than last year – we have evolved and grown since then – the success in the early season shows that.

We are constantly growing in confidence as a group and with the experience of Fabio Aru and the young exciting prospect of Tadej we are in a great position to do well this year.

I look forward to hearing our UAE fans’ support whilst away on Tour and will do them and the UAE proud.