After a disappointing final season with Astana, 2022 sees Jakob Fuglsang heading to Israel Start-Up Nation in search of refreshment at the end of a year plagued by illness and injury.
The 36-year-old, who passes after nine years in the Kazakh team, suffered from a virus at the Tokyo Olympics, broke his collarbone and scapula at the Benelux Tour and made it to the Tour from France suffering from the side effects of his second injection of COVID-19 vaccine.
Next summer, a year after the Tour which saw him abandon the last day, the race heads to Denmark for the Grand Départ. Fuglsang, a Dane born in Geneva, said racing the Tour, which starts with three stages at home, should be his main focus for the season.
“Of course one of my goals is that I would really like to participate in the Tour de France from Denmark,” said Fuglsang. Cycling news at the Israel Start-Up Nation “homecoming” camp in Tel Aviv.
“It would be something special for all Danish riders and I would love to have this opportunity. I am quite relaxed about it and quite open to the ideas and ambitions of the team for the Grand Tours.”
Fuglsang, who finished seventh in the 2013 Tour, and who also has a sixth place in the Giro d’Italia to his name, said however that the competition for the overall Grand Tours classification was no longer on his radar.
“If the team wants it, I will do GC, but for me personally, I think you have so many other opportunities if you don’t do GC,” he said. “I still think for me as a runner I have a good chance of winning weeklong stage races, but I think three weeks is probably a little more difficult and less realistic.
“First of all, I would like to have a good Paris-Nice or Tirreno-Adriatico and then have a good campaign in Classics but from there, the Tour de France will be an objective. I prefer to try another victory at the Critérium du Dauphiné or finally put the Tour de Suisse in the belt and then opt for stages or the mountain jersey in the Tour or in other Grand Tours. “
Outside of the stage races – Fuglsang has won two editions of the Dauphiné and finished 14 in the top 10 in other weeklong races of the WorldTour – he also has a solid track record of the Classics, having won Liège-Bastogne-Liège and Il Lombardia in recent years, as well as podiums at the Strade Bianche, Amstel Gold Race and La Flèche Wallonne.
The Cobbled Classics, however, have not been in Fuglsang’s ambitions in the past, having raced just one Tour of Flanders (he finished 25th in 2016) and no edition of Paris-Roubaix – despite his second place in the memorable paved stage at the 2014 tour.
That could change in 2022, however, with Fuglsang admitting that he would be interested in returning to Flanders, and even admitting that he is interested in trying Paris-Roubaix before he retires.
“We still have to discuss the schedule in the next few days and see things, but I would like to come back for Flanders,” said Fuglsang. “I’ve asked Astana every year since doing my only Flanders in 2016. I’ve always wanted to go back and try again but they didn’t really let me.
“I have not seen the calendar but I am wondering with the trip to Roubaix and the fact that the Classics are a little different, this perhaps opens the opportunity to go for Flanders and Amstel before Flèche and Cork.
“I would love to, and Roubaix is also a race that I would like to do at least once or twice in my career. I think it’s a race you should try to do at least once but maybe not. in the coming season. I was glad that I was not there [this year], but if you look at the Tour de France 2014 when Boom won and Nibali was in yellow, I took second place. So maybe it wouldn’t be so bad if it got wet. “
Premier Tech links and a disappointing 2021
Fuglsang is heading to ISN for a fresh start, passing Astana with teammate Hugo Houle and sporting director Steve Bauer. It has long been said that the trio would make the switch with Jean Bélanger’s Premier Tech, although ISN boss Sylvan Adams insisted last week that nothing has been finalized on that front yet.
Fuglsang himself said he could have ended up on another team if Bélanger had made a sponsorship deal elsewhere. The company had been linked to Qhubeka NextHash and was close to finalizing a deal with BikeExchange before negotiations stalled.
“At one point in the year, I had discussions with Jean from Premier Tech and I agreed with him that I would stay with him wherever he went, so let’s say that if he had chosen BikeExchange, I would have probably found there, “Fuglsang said.
“That’s probably also why we’re a group. I can’t tell you if it was Premier Tech that came here or if Sylvan took the whole group, but I think it’s more like Sylvan said ‘ Ok, I can use these guys and I’ll be happy they join the team. ” Israel was one of the teams I already spoke to in August and they wanted to finish me off. I had to decide what to do and it ended like that and I’m ‘super happy about it.’
However, the sponsorship situation resolves on its own, Fuglsang is fixed at ISN and will be heading towards 2022 looking to put a tough 2021 behind him. Aside from third place in the Tour de Suisse, he spent much of the summer plagued by various illnesses before his season ended abruptly with a crash at the Benelux Tour.
“Overall it has been a disappointing year,” he said. “I tried to take a different approach. I was okay with Astana to do it, to start easier and be ready for the Classics, but it turned out that I missed a bit for the Classics. .
“Then I had a really good Tour de Suisse with third place and that was one of my goals, but of course with the Tour de France – the period before and after the Tour de Suisse, I had my vaccination the month before and after my second shot, I believe that one ruined my Tour de France.
“I will take the vaccine no matter what,” he noted. “But maybe I would have timed it a little differently. I already had the first shot after my first block of racing. Then we went to the training camp in Tenerife and all the tests we did. liked lactate – it was super high compared to normal In training I may never have felt like I was on top but I didn’t feel bad I could still train and I nevertheless came to Switzerland in force.
“After the second shot I had the same feeling and it felt like I had missed 10% more. I think it was more about the vaccine doing its job. Now was not the time. ideal.”
In July, Fuglsang’s tour ended early with food poisoning that continued into the Olympics road race a week later. Back in Rio he had clinched a silver medal and he finished 12th in August, but for Fuglsang the result only underscored what could have been.
“I was so damaged before the Olympics that I was in bed most of the time there. Luckily I managed to pull myself together a day before the race and put in a surprising performance for myself and for everyone who has seen what I have experienced.
“But it was not what I expected. Knowing later on how well I got given the days I started out, I was a little disappointed because I could have been where I was. I wanted to be and run after this gold medal. “
Fuglsang will be 37 at the end of next March, and with his three-year contract taking him into his 39th year, it’s not unreasonable to wonder if this is his last contract in the pro squad. .
He said he aims to make it to the next Olympic Games in Paris in 2024, although the course is unlikely to be suited to his riding style. After that, it’s about analyzing the lay of the land and deciding what to do. For now, anyway, he’s certainly not thinking about the end.
“I would love to finish the Paris Olympics in three years,” he said. “I know it will be tough with all the strong Danish guys coming up and maybe the course there won’t suit me as a runner but other than that I have that as my goal and I think that when we get closer, I’ll ‘I’ll decide what to do.
“At the moment I don’t feel tired of running and I don’t have 36. I feel like I can go on for a long time. I am happy to run and ride a bike and I am very happy also have a long contract, which they trust me because it might not be the obvious thing for a team to do to give a three year contract to a 36 year old player.
“But it gives me a peace that could be good for getting results all the way through. For me, it’s not just about winning, but also about joining and being a part of a successful team.”