Interview - Astana's Jakob Fuglsang ambitious ahead of new season
Jan 08 2018 08:48 pm CET

Interview - Astana's Jakob Fuglsang ambitious ahead of new season
Interview - Astana's Jakob Fuglsang ambitious ahead of new season
Photo of Jakob Fuglsang © Mary Cárdenas / spoke to an ambitious Jakob Fuglsang during Astana Pro Team's training camp in Spain, and discussed his chances in the Tour de France and the way his career developed in the past year.

The 2017 season saw Fuglsang win the Criterium du Dauphine in a convincing manner. A month later, the 32-year-old rode in fifth place in the Tour de France when a crash ended his chances of a good finish. Nevertheless, these experiences taught the Dane a lot about what he is capable of. This reflects in his plans for 2018.

How has your off-season been so far?

It's been good. A bit shorter than usual but it seems to have been good for me. Of course with all the crashes, first in the Tour and then one month later I crashed again and broke the collarbone, I had a few periods of rest already throughout the season so in the end I had a longer season just so I didn't end the year in the middle of the Tour. It worked out well and I feel ready for a new season.

You had some injury trouble in 2017 but success as well. How do you look back on the season?

I believe that I could have gotten even more out of the season if I wouldn't have crashed in the Tour. But it's been my best season so far, at least with the biggest victory of my career in the Dauphine and two stage wins there as well. It was the first time in five years with Astana Pro Team that I actually win something. Those wins, and the stage win in the Tour of Almaty have made it the best season, one that I am really happy with.

You already mentioned that you went some years without winning but now you did win. Did it come as a bit of a surprise to you?

It's not that it comes as a surprise. I was really close at many occasions and maybe just missed that little bit of luck, tactical wisdom or strength. I think I got stronger this year and I improved in general. But I also had the margins on my side. I think that changed a lot. I always believed that I had it in me and that I didn't lose it, during these years at Astana.

And the team must have felt the same way.

Yes. I think the Olympics last year was a big reason for them to say that they still believe in me. Of course they have also seen all the second places and fourth places. Then with (Vincenzo) Nibali leaving, the team had an extra space and gave me the possibility to go for my own success. That has been a big help in achieving these results.

You crashed in the Tour de France, as you said, but at that moment you were riding in fifth position.

I had a bit of a slow start in the Tour. After the Dauphine I tried not to overdo it and made sure that I would recover 100 percent and not push too hard. Maybe because of that I had a slow start. But I had the feeling that I was getting better and better. I definitely believe that I could have done something there. Of course it's easy to say when you didn't finish.

That shows that your ambition is big enough to consider fifth place after ten days a slow start.

Yes, basically because I lost a bit of time on the stage where Fabio (Aru) won, more than I should have. I had to return to the race pace and from there on it went better. Then on the stage to Chambery (stage 9) I had recovered the good legs and was feeling really good. I really felt like I recovered every day, hiding well in the peloton on the flat stages and saving myself really well so I would be ready for the last half of the Tour. I definitely believe that I could have kept something like a top five but it's easy to say now.

But you did end up having that crash and you had two small fractures, right?

Yes, a scaphoid fracture and a radial head fracture in the elbow.

Now, I might be wrong but I think a normal person wouldn't do another two stages after something like that.

Ah, but I guess we are not normal people. At the end of the day, at least when I finished the stage in which I crashed I was still fifth in the GC and I was hoping that I could still get over it, as it was only the arm and not the legs. But it was too much. Still, I got through the following the stage and to just stop overnight was not really a possibility for me. It had to be on the road. Maybe with a different combination of stages or rest days I could have saved something. But first a long and hard stage and then a short and intense stage made it impossible. In the end I had too much pain and I was compensating too much on the bike.

Talking in an interview earlier in 2017 you didn't seem entirely sure yet of where you wanted to continue your career. Or were you always sure?

Yes I was. Maybe I was talking about whether the right choice would be to ride as a captain, a GC guy, or whether I would be a helper, the best domestique out there. Because I know I can do a good job at that on all terrains. I proved it with Nibali and Andy Schleck. On top of that, with the experience I gained over the years, I know that I can do that kind of job perfectly. But I had a top 10 from the Tour de France in 2013 and of course at some point you have to decide what to focus on. This year I wanted to give it one more chance and the decision was that I would be the sole captain in the Tour with Fabio doing the Giro. Then it changed but the plan was still for me to give it 100 percent and see what the outcome would be. Of course after winning the Dauphine I knew this was the right way to go and I had managed to improve enough to be there at the top. I believe that it is the right thing, to keep trying for grand tour success and if not that, then at least big one-week events like the Dauphine, the Tour de Suisse, Paris-Nice.

Do you already know a bit more about your 2018 schedule leading up to the Tour de France?

I know more or less everything. I will kick off in Spain with the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana and the Ruta del Sol. Programs are there to change but that's the initial plan. Then we'll do Paris-Nice, that's the first big one. Then the Ardennes classics but maybe more in a helping role for some of the other guys, because I will do Romandie straight afterwards. Then another break to prepare for the Tour. It looks like it could be a preparation with the Tour de Suisse instead of the Dauphine, because the Tour starts one week later. Rather than being 90 percent in the Dauphine it may be better to be 95 percent in the Tour de Suisse and to have a shorter time after. In 2018, the Tour de Suisse lies in the position the Dauphine normally does.

So maybe no title defense in the Dauphine.

No, sadly not, as it looks right now. But you never know. Of course it would be nice to defend but to be in top shape in the Dauphine trying to defend, might cost me in the Tour as its one month after the Dauphine finishes until the Tour starts. That's a long time to be on top.

You have a background in mountain biking. Although it's been quite a while, is there something you learned then that you can still apply now?

Of course. Especially the discipline I learned when I was a mountain biker, training on my own and pacing myself. That is something I still use today. I also try not to forget the skills that I learned on the mountain bike, the confidence I had with the bike. It's something that I may have missed a bit over the years, also with the crashes here and there. At the end of the day I know that I can ride my bike and that I'm good at it, thanks to the mountain bike.

You were born in Switzerland, in Geneva, and your name sounds like it may be from around there?

It's purely Danish. My parents are both Danish but my dad was working there for a couple of years, close to Geneva. I happen to be born in those years. For the rest I am 100 percent Dane. At least from when I was born, and then it changed over the years. Maybe now I'm more European. I lived in Italy, in Luxembourg and now in Monaco. I lived everywhere and rarely go back to Denmark. My wife is from Luxembourg. So maybe I'm more European than Danish now.

Speaking of Denmark: How do you see the future of Danish cycling?

If you look at Danish cycling and at the World Championships, you will see that Danish cycling is huge and very successful at the moment. Both last year's and this year's World Championships we got a lot of medals with the young riders. I think it has a good future and cycling is popular like never before. Since I was a kid it's always been popular but it's even more popular now. I hope that there's a good future for cycling. The only thing we miss is a WorldTour team like we used to have. That of course would be great to have again, a huge motivation for the young guys to continue. That way we could get even more professional Danish riders even though we are already a good number, now riding for different teams. It's of course easier to become a pro when you have a Danish WorldTour team to pass on to.

There's nothing in the pipelines to set something up, as far as you know?

The only one that is actually working on it is Bjarne Riis. The problem is to find a company that puts the millions. Then maybe Denmark is too small or there are too few companies that actually have the capital to do it. You'd have to go outside of Denmark. But for now there is nothing coming.

Last question. What would you most like to happen in 2018, for it to be a successful year?

That would be to end on the podium in the Tour de France. That would be the biggest for me in 2018. But I think it's realistic, it's something I can achieve if everything goes well. That would definitely make 2018 successful.

By Jonathan Roorda




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