Back in the 90s, Crowded House were a band that was just… present. Serviceable but not significant, good but not great. Then their (first) Best Of album was released – somewhere around the third or fourth series of Friends. The TV advertisement opened with a thick Scottish brogue informing the audience that: “You know more Crowded House songs than you think you do.”
The commercial then launched into a medley of the group’s singles. From “Don’t Dream It’s Over” to “Fall at Your Feet” via “Weather With You” , “Four Seasons in One Day”, and “Distant Sun”. Not the kind of thing the DJ would close a night at [insert generic university town club night here] with back in the day, but each one an absolute banger.
We hadn’t noticed how good a band we had on our hands when we’d only heard their tracks one at a time, but put them all together and we realised what a treasure they truly were. The record sold in the millions. Crowded House went on to play the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury.
All very interesting, I hear you observing, but what does that have to do with cycling? Well, what we’re saying is, and stay with us here, Alexander Kristoff is the Crowded House of bike racers and Gent-Wevelgem was his Best of.
The Norwegian has 74 career wins to his name, according to Pro Cycling Stats. That puts him 38th on the all-time list. Ahead of Eddy Planckaert, level with Philippe Gilbert and only three behind Felice Gimondi. Who, if they’re honest with themselves, would have thought of Kristoff in the same light as that trio?
Quantity, of course, doesn’t tell the whole story. Chris Froome doesn’t make the top 100 riders by wins, while Nacer Bouhanni does. Still, once you’ve waded through a fjord of Norwegian races, a close inspection of Kristoff’s palmarès uncovers some substantial wins.
Not just two Monuments but two very different Monuments; three Tour de France stage victories, one of which came on the Champs Elysees; a European championships in which he beat Elia Viviani into second. He’s beaten every big sprinter of every generation into second at one point or another, in fact, and on Sunday he showed his young Colombian team-mate, Fernando Gaviria, what an older dog can do.
It might have looked easy in the end, but being the only sprinter with the legs left to sprint after a race like that was an incredible feat.
You may think of the Norwegian as mostly present. A strong, serviceable rider, not a significant one. But that edition of Gent-Wevelgem could only be won by a great and should ensure we finally appreciate what a talent Kristoff is. You really have watched him win more races than you think you have.