Kristoff races to fourth Eschborn-Frankfurt title

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Berlin (AFP)

Norwegian Alexander Kristoff overcame a number of key changes to the Eschborn-Frankfurt race to claim his fourth victory at the German one-day classic on Tuesday.

Kristoff, who won the race in 2014, 2016 and 2017, claimed the 212.5km-long 2018 edition after beating Australian Michael Matthews (Sunweb) and Belgian Oliver Naesen (AG2R) at the finish.

But for the 30-year-old Team Emirates rider, who owns two stages from the Tour de France as well as titles from Milan-San Remo and the Tour of Flanders, the 57th edition of the race previously known as the Frankfurt GP was one to remember.

"I didn't really feel strong," said Kristoff. "On the second lap I was dropped, but luckily I managed to recover and got better. The last two times I felt better and managed to stay in the group."

Organisers had added a number of extra challenges, including the Mammolshain climb with passages at a punishing 23-percent gradient and a long climb over the Feldberg.

Yet the changes failed to inspire the attacks that had sparked the race into life in previous editions. A first breakaway of seven riders broke free after 30 km, but the sprinters' teams kept them on a tight leash.

And they even proved too much for some. Rick Zabel, the son of German sprint legend Erik Zabel, lost touch with the peloton 60km from the finish, thus denting German hopes of a first home win since John Degenkolb's victory in 2011.

A later breakaway saw eight men in front with a 53sec-lead and 25km to race, but they were reeled in by a peloton being driven by the Quick-Step team.

Quick-Step looked to have the race under control in the closing kilometres, but when their main hopeful, Colombian Fernando Gaviria, misjudged a late bend, Kristoff was given a glimpse of victory.

"I was lucky because Gaviria went wrong in the last corner," Kristoff said.

Naesen launched his sprint on the long home straight, but Kristoff powered his way past the Belgian to then push Matthews into second place.

He added: "Luck was on my side and in the end, I managed to take it so I'm really happy."