After two seasons strongly conditioned by the pandemic which prevented us from direct contact with cyclists and professionals in conjunction with the spring classics, on the eve of Liège-Bastogne-Liège we had the opportunity to deliver the Cyclissime Trophy – sponsored by Mühle Glashütte – to the winner of the 2019 edition Jakob Fuglsang. We exchanged a few words with him about the season that awaits him and the changes that cycling has witnessed.
Hi Jakob: after 9 seasons in the Astana jersey this year you started with a new adventure that sees you defending the colors of Israel Premier Tech. Last autumn news from ciclomercato also associated your name with Team Quick Step and Cofidis. What prompted you in the end to choose Team Israel?
«There are several reasons that pushed me towards this choice. One of these is certainly due to the entry of the Premier Tech sponsor in Team Israel. I had a good relationship with Premier Tech president Jean Bélanger before and after the first contacts I spoke with the management of Israel and I immediately had the impression that the way they work suited me. Now I am happy in the new team, we are a young team, we work well and there is a good atmosphere ».
After a very high level 2019 that saw you win at Liège and take other important placings, in 2020 you added another classic monument, Lombardy. In your opinion, what are the reasons that led you to achieve your best results at 34?
“There are more elements that have contributed to this. Experience certainly plays its role and then there are many details in the preparation, from training to nutrition. Then to win these races it is essential to start as a captain as I did in 2019 and 2020. In the past I have also raced in support of other teammates so it is more difficult to obtain the result ».
Last year the crash at the Benelux Tour interrupted your season prematurely, how did you resume your preparation after the injury and how did you set it up?
«The preparation started very well and even at the first races, I refer to Valenciana, I felt very well and then I took the covid which compromised everything. Starting off, I had days when I felt good and others less. I didn’t have to stop but I felt I wasn’t ready for racing ».
How is your current condition and what are your feelings?
«I feel it is improving day by day, of course if I could decide I would have moved Liege a month forward. I felt good at Amstel and also at Freccia, where I worked for Michael Woods ».
What are the goals for the 2022 season?
«From Tuesday I will be racing at the Romandie and then you will see me again at the races in June at the Tour of Switzerland to refine my preparation for the Tour de France. In the Tour I will not aim for the general classification, I prefer a stage win to a place in the ten. In the past I touched it several times and this year I want to finally make this dream come true ».
With which team will you leave for the Tour and with what objectives?
«We have already spoken with the team about the teammates who will be at the start of the Tour. It is certainly no secret when I tell you that one of these will be Michael Woods. Last year he wore the polka dot jersey, this year he will try again, as a team we will go hunting for the day’s victories without focusing too much on the general classification ».
What has changed in cycling since your professional debut?
“Everything has changed. Scientific research has evolved, sport is more organized and all the details are taken care of. Each team has more trainers, nutrition is taken care of, we are supported by nutritionists and also the materials have improved. Also, the season has lengthened. Before it came off and recovered slowly, today you have to arrive in good condition already at the first races otherwise you are always at the bottom of the group. Overall it is a tougher sport that requires more and more professionalism ».
So, for the kids who are coming to cycling now, is there a more exhausting career ahead?
«Yes, maybe I’m wrong but in my opinion the young people of now will not reach 42 years like Valverde. We’ll see, undoubtedly cycling today requires greater concentration and commitment and this will be felt ».
What do you think of the young 20-year-olds who come to cycling and immediately get results?
«They are guys who are very fast but also in the past we have had cyclists who were very strong already when they were young, just think of Andy Schleck or Damiano Cunego. But one thing has certainly changed: the young boys do not have to do the apprenticeship, they are put in the conditions to immediately achieve results. They have immediately a staff of professionals, from the trainer to the nutritionist, at their complete disposal. When I started I had to gain trust a little at a time, it was really different ».