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Sven Erik Bystrøm: From Øster Hus-Ridley to Katusha, via Ponferrada

Sven Erik Bystrøm

In September, at the World Road Championships in Spain, Sven Erik Bystrøm surprised the big favourites attacking on the final climb of the U23 race and winning the rainbow jersey, only the second Norwegian to do so. Still, the 22-year-old cyclist didn’t came out of nowhere; in the past three seasons he spent riding for Øster Hus-Ridley, Sven has had some impressive results in one-day races, but also in stage races, and one World Tour team that noticed his big potential was Katusha, which signed him for the next two years.

Before going in a training camp with the Russian team, I caught up with Sven Erik Bystrøm and asked him a couple of questions about his first years as a rider and the expectations he has for 2015.

– Sven, how did you begin cycling?

I started first when I was 9-years-old at a local cycling club, and then when I was 16 I moved to Stavanger which is a two-hour drive from where I come from. Then I started to attend sport school and I was part of a bigger cycling community, with more riders of my age. I liked cycling since I started, I watched it a lot on the television, especially the Tour de Frace and the Giro d’Italia.

– After some good results in the junior races, you ended up with Sparebanken Vest. What’s the story of that transfer?

Once I’ve finished my junior time, I did my first U23 year with the local club in Stavanger, where I had some good results and won the Norwegian Cup overall. This lead to some offers from both Sparebanken Vest, as Øster Hus-Ridley was called, and Joker. I choose Sparebanken Vest, because it’s from the same town where I live and basically all the riders in the team are from my neighbourhood. We trained and raced a lot together, so this was a good thing for me.

– What was your most important win during the spell with Øster Hus-Ridley?

That would be the U23 Eschborn-Frankfurt City Loop, in 2012. Then I showed myself at the Norwegian Championships. Also with the national team in the Tour de l’Avenir I’ve got some top 10 finishes. The next season, although I didn’t get any wins, I felt that I was better than the year before, that I was improving in all aspects.

– Let’s go now to Ponferrada. What were your hopes before the U23 race?

I thought before the race that I could manage to get a medal, because my form was good and I liked the course. This year, in September, I felt that I was at my highest level and I knew I had a similar form to the one in May, so this is why I was confident I can get on the podium.

– What were your thoughts in the last kilometres?

When I attacked I went full gas, I gave everything I had and on the top of the climb I was really tired, so I decided not to pedal so much in order to save energy and stay as aerodinamic as I could on the descent. When I reached the last two kilometres I put everything I had, it was almost like a sprint for me, because I knew that if I had 10 seconds in the last 500 metres, the riders chasing will consider I am too far and start looking at each other.

– Do you feel the win changed your life in any way?

After I crossed the finish line I didn’t have time to realise what I’ve accomplished. Afterwards things settled in. People became more interested in me and I got more media requests. I don’t know if this world title will bring more pressure on the future, my focus is to develop myself every year.

– In U23 races you’ve had results in stage races, but also in one-day races. What kind of rider do you see yourself becoming?

I think one-day races with a hilly parcours really suit me, as I’ve showed this at the World Championships. I’m thinking of classics like Flèche Wallonne and Liège–Bastogne–Liège in the future, but I will also try to be good in stage races, especially in those without a time trial, because time trials are my weakness. If there are not time trials and not big mountains, I can get strong results in one-week stage races.

– What made you sign with Katusha?

Basically, it was very important that we will be two riders from the same town, me and Alex (ed. Kristoff). We knew each other from the past, we’ve trained together when we were at home at the same time. It’s better for the both of us to be in the same team. He’s the big star of the team and I hope to help him and the other riders. As for me, I just want to become better, to handle the long races and to have more racing days compared to this year.

– What races do you dream of winning?

Liège–Bastogne–Liège is one of them. I also want to win a stage in the Tour de France, which is a really big race in Norway. And I’d also like to win the Worlds as a pro. Is really motivating that the 2017 Worlds will take place in Bergen.

Toms Skujiņš: “2015 will be bigger, better and faster”

Toms Skujiņš

The recently concluded season was the best of Hincapie Sports Development since the inception of the team, the US Continental team scoring four wins in the UCI America Tour. Three of these victories were brought by Toms Skujiņš, the 23-year-old Latvian rider who had a strong season, in which, besides his results, he discovered the States, adapting himself to the US lifestyle and races.

If last year you got to know more about Toms Skujiņš thanks to this interview, I know invite you to find out what he thinks of his first year in the US and what goals he has for 2015.

– Toms, how’s the holiday?

I’m enjoying my holiday and trying to stay away from the internet world more. Of course, I have some other stuff I’m doing, just to keep me busy.

– Any good book you’ve read recently?

I’ve been meaning to start a book, but haven’t gotten around to it, because I’ve got some not that interesting books that I have to read, learn and replicate.

– Did you had time to reflect on your season?

Well I’ve already been looking back at the season after I left the States, because the Worlds for me was definitely just going to be a race to get the feel for, not really go for a result there. Of course I wanted to do good, but I wasn’t going to get a result that would change the team I was riding for in 2015.

– For the first time in your career, you’ve raced a full season in the US. What were the main differences compared to Europe?

I get this question asked a lot. I still think that the biggest difference is made by how the wide roads affect riding styles. Almost at any moment you can get to the front, so you don’t have to worry too much about being far back. Still, some racing is less predictable and even in the big races it’s pretty exciting. A lot of the races are spectator friendly with city circuits and big loops you do over and over again and I really like that, because it’s always more fun to ride when there’s people cheering you on.

– You’ve changed countries, continents, mentalities. Was it difficult to cope with this?

Always it’s a bit difficult to go to a new team in a different country and even in a different part of the world, but I could have never have asked for a better team to arrive in, because they’ve made the transition so much easier. I’ve always been with fun people around me and they’ve always kept things bright, so it’s definitely been a lot easier then I thought it would be.

– How would you describe the Hincapie Sportswear Development team?

It’s an amazing group of people. The riders are so welcoming and fun to be with, but it’s not just the riders and the staff that’s the most caring one I’ve encountered in a team. It’s also the people behind the scenes, the people you don’t see at races. We’ve got an amazing group of people working at the Hincapie offices in Greenville. They help us out a lot and every win we get is also part theirs.

– Your best race was the Tour de Beauce, where you won the GC and two stages. How was it?

The week in Quebec when we were riding Beauce was amazing. It was a massive win for the team and me. It’s just amazing how we managed to win almost everything. Two stages, overall, points and young rider jersey, but most satisfying was that we won the team GC as well. It’s pretty amazing the boys managed to do that even though they had to ride the front to keep everyone in check for so long. It just showed how strong we are as a team. Plus standing on the podium alone is no fun, it’s always so much more fun to have everyone up there.

– You’ve also raced Utah, Colorado and Alberta against many World Tour teams. What memories do you have from these races?

Well most of those races I was just suffering, surviving and helping my team as much as I could. The only day I got a result was on stage two in Utah, when I sprinted to a sweet 5th place. But from then it just all went downhill, because my body just hates altitude. I’m hoping it will have adapted next year and that second time’s a charm. At least in Alberta when we went back to almost sea level racing I was back on track. I could ride at the front hard and long. On the last stage, when on the last lap we hit the final climb full gas, it was just me, Serghei (ed. Tvetcov) and six guys from World Tour teams left, so that gave me a big confidence boost. I knew I couldn’t win if I waited and I just went for it 5 km out. It was a risky move, and I knew I had little chance if no one went with me, but it was better then having no chance at the GC at all.

– Do you have any regrets after this year?

Regrets? Don’t think so. There’s always room for improvement, but regrets… Nah.

– How did this US experience helped you become a better rider?

It’s always nice to learn something new in training, racing, nutrition and just taking care of yourself. I’ve learnt a few new tricks, so that’ll help me a lot in the coming years. Training in the US is a bit more scientific, so it’s a big change to the Russian system in which I grew up in. Now I’m trying to combine both and make a system of my own.

– With what thoughts will you start the 2015 season?

2015 will be bigger, better and faster. I love that Worlds is going to be in the states, that’ll give me an advantage being there already, hopefully seeing the track before. I’m also looking at collecting as many UCI points as I can for Latvia, so that we’ve got as many riders as we can get at the Olympics in 2016. It’s a year I was looking forward to even before the season had ended. I’m having a break now, but looking forward to training hard for the upcoming season already next week.

– Any particular goals in terms of results, but also improvements?

I’m looking forward to racing the Tour of California, because I didn’t get to do it this year and I think we’ve proved we belong there. Also the team is planning to do some races in Australia in order to prepare for the season in the States, but we’ll see if that happens, because we have to hope the Aussies are looking at some races we’ve done over in the States and give us an invitation. I’m really looking forward to my new team mates, because I’ve heard we have made some good signing over the winter. I’m super happy for Joey Rosskopf and his move to BMC, but we’ll miss him on the Hincapie squad.

Clément Chevrier: “IAM Cycling is a new start in my career”

Clement Chevrier 2014

This time last year, Clément Chevrier was shrugging off the disappointment of not turning pro with AG2R by getting ready to embark in a new adventure, that took him in the US, as the new rider of Bissell Development Team. There, he had some very strong results in stage races, proving he is one of the most talented U23 climbers. This didn’t go unnoticed, and Trek Factory Racing took him as a stagiaire for a couple of races, before IAM Cycling stepped in and signed the talented French rider for the next two years.

What did Clément Chevrier had to say about this move, his future plans, and his 2014 season? Find out more from the following interview.

– Clément, this year you’ve raced mainly in the US. How important were Axel Merckx and Bissell Development for you?

It was important to leave France, where I grew up, in order to learn and improve on my bike. It was more an experience of life than just a cycling program. For sure, I wanted to make improvements with the help of the race calendar, which is of high quality, even if it’s lighter. The main goal was to join a big team for 2015. Bissell was one important step of my career. Thanks to Axel and this program, I can speak English now – which is important in cycling and for my studies – and I also showed that I’m able to join and integrate in a foreign team. This is something rare for a French rider. In the US, I discovered new races, a new spirit, a different approach of cycling for everything and I also met a lot of nice people who are my friends now. I feel lucky to have lived this experience.

– What were your highs and lows during this season?

For the highs, I can say the Tour of California, which is such a great race! Also, my experience with Trek Factory Racing as a stagiaire and for sure my ride in the USA Pro Challenge. This race was a stepping stone in my career. I had a good time with the Bissell Development Team, my team mates and the staff in US. I have a lot of good memories. For the lows, I think of my Tour des Pays de Savoie in June with the French Team. It was a goal for me and I was really disappointed of my result. I can explain that because I had allergies with four days before the start and I was also without any races in my legs in the past five weeks. I trained a lot to have a good form, but I guess it wasn’t enough.

– Of all these results you’ve had, which is the one you are the most proud?

The USA Pro Cycling Challenge. To finish 12th overall and with the best young rider jersey was incredible, but maybe more important for me was to show that I’m able to fight against the best riders in the world and have good legs during a one-week race. Also, the result was important for my future, because I trained hard since the start of the season just for this race. In this race, my last with Bissell, I wanted to say thanks to Axel for his confidence, but also to the staff and riders.

– You’ve recently signed with IAM Cycling. What’s the story of this transfer?

I was interested in IAM Cycling since last year, as I followed this team since the beginning. But the problem with me was I’m not Swiss and their priority is to have Swiss neo-pros. Finally, after Colorado and during the Vuelta, IAM Cycling came to me to find out if I was still interested. The decision was made at the end of the Vuelta, but I learned that just before the Grand Prix de Wallonie, which I did with Trek.

– What means for you to make this step to the pro ranks?

It’s a new start, totally new and in my head this is the real start of my career. The dream I’ve had since I was 5-years-old came true. But I have to keep my focus in order to do other good things in the future. Hopefully, the best is yet to come.

– Did you get to talk to the team management about the expectations they have from you in the first season?

No, I don’t know the expectations of the team, I still have to talk with the management about this. I know that we want to build something together over the next years, and IAM can help me discover myself in the pro peloton.

– Which races would you like to do?

It’s difficult to say which races I aim for, but what I do know is that I want to discover myself on the World Tour, in one-week stage races, but also in the Ardennes Classics, that I love so much and where I can learn a lot, and why not, to see if I am able to ride a Grand Tour. I want this experience to be productive for the future. I have to talk with the team about my program and I have total confidence in the staff and Rik Verbrugghe, the new sport manager. Another goal will be to help the team and learn from our leaders: Sylvain Chavanel, Heinrich Haussler, Matthias Frank, Sebastien Reichenbach and Stefan Denifl.

Ilia Koshevoy: “I’d like to focus on stage races”

Ilia Koshevoy

One of the most talented young riders that will make their debut in the pro ranks next season is Ilia Koshevoy. Coming from Belarus, but riding in Italy for some time now, the 23-year-old scored six wins in 2014, including the prestigious Cronoscalata Gardone. One year before that, he had already won the Gran Premio della Liberazione, and that caught up Lampre-Merida’s attention, who gave him the opportunity to become a pro rider in 2015.

Recently, I talked to Ilia Koshevoy about this transfer – the most important step of his career so far – but also about the impressive results he had as an amateur and a stagiaire.

– Ilia, how did you start cycling?

My parents were cyclists, so I think this was my destiny. But I started cycling late, at the age of 16, because I did other things before. I spent the first years in my home town, mixing road and track races.

– And how did you get to race in Italy?

In 2009, I rode with the national team the Giro della Lunigiana and Giro di Basilicata. I had some good results and thanks to these I received some offers from Italian amateur teams.

– Since coming to Italy, you’ve improved a lot, but is there something in particular you would still like to work on?

I am going well on the climbs and also in the time trials, but my problem is the way I go on the descents. I think that’s the only thing I need to improve.

– In the past two years, you scored many important wins, like the Liberazione or the Cronoscalata Gardone. Which is the one you are the most proud of?

The Gran Premio della Liberazione is the most important victory. But the most important thing was that I had a strong 2014 season and I’m satisfied, because I was very consistent. I won six races in five different months and this says a lot.

– What’s the story of your transfer to Lampre-Merida?

Lampre contacted me last year, in October. It was difficult for them to take me on board for the 2014 season, so they offered me a pre-contract for 2015 and 2016 and I said yes.

– You’ve raced the Tour of Utah with Lampre and finished 13th. How was it?

I am satisfied with my result. It was my first stage race of the season with pro riders. I didn’t know what to expect, but my condition was better day after day, while other riders were having problems. This gave me a lot of confidence.

– What plans do you have for the future?

I don’t know my race calendar yet, I will talk about it with the team at the first training camp, in December. I’d like to focus on stage races and in 2015 I will find out what I can and what I can’t do.

Mads Würtz Schmitz: “I want to win a race this season”

Danish cycling has been on the rise for a couple of seasons, with many young riders working their way up thanks to some impressive results. One of this cyclists is Mads Würtz Schmitz, who produced a sensational ride back in 2011 to win the gold medal in the Junior ITT race at the Copenhagen World Championships, before making a name for himself on the U23 scene.

Riding for CULT Energy Vital Water, Mads began the 2014 season with big ambitions and some solid results, but things changed after a crash in May. Since then, the talented Danish rider fought hard to come back at his very best and after a long journey, is now he came out of it even stronger than before.

– Mads, how do you see this first half of the season, which had its ups and downs?

I’m satisfied with my season so far. I’ve had some good results in the start, but no UCI win. But all’n’all I’m happy. I’ve had some mental problems after a crash in the 1.2 race Himmerland Rundt, so for a long period of time I wasn’t myself, and that made it difficult for me to perform on the bike, as well as in private life. But my team bosses got to me and we made a plan to get me back at my normal level. They helped me really much, and still do. I think this period of time have been good for me, even though my physical development stopped and I didn’t perform much in the races. For my mental side it has been a very hard process, but on the other side, I feel I know myself much better and I think this process made me even stronger on the bike. The life as a pro rider is really a tough way of living and many break down like I did this season. But in the pro life, it’s rare that you get help, you are just by yourself. I’m sure that what happened will help me a lot in the future. I’ve learned a lot from it and I’ve got some new tools to use when things are going bad in order to make it better again. So despite the problems, I feel good and comfortable with my season so far.

– Recently, you’ve won a Criterium in Aalborg. How important was that win for your morale?

The win in Aalborg was one of my most important wins in my carrier. I’ve struggled the whole summer with my mind. I still did some hard work on the bike, so my physical form was good, but my mind wasn’t there yet. So in Aalborg I finally succeeded and got a win ahead of Jakob Fuglsang. After the victory I got back the feeling I’ve had in the spring, that I could be again one of the best. So it was a really important win for me.

– Were you disappointed not being selected for the Tour of Denmark?

I’ve expected not to be in the selection for the Tour of Denmark. Of course I really wanted to race, but I’m in such a strong team that I have to be at 100% to go to a race that’s important for the team. I wasn’t at 100%, so I expected not to race, but this doesn’t mean I wasn’t disappointed not to go there.

– How are your legs after the training camp in Italy?

Now I’m feeling great. While my team raced the Tour of Denmark, I went on a training camp in Lucca, where I had a really hard week and really trained myself so hard in that one week that I couldn’t walk or do anything without sore pain in my legs. For me, the week was perfect. I knew I had to do something extraordinary now I wouldn’t race the Tour of Denmark. I needed to simulate my own stage race, so I wouldn’t be missing some hard hours on the bike.

– In what other races will you go this season?

I’m on my way to Tour de L’Avenir right now and the after L’Avenir, I have a race in Belgium and then some races in Denmark. As it is now, I’m not racing at the Worlds. But I’m the first guy in line for the U23 road race if any of the guys gets injured.

– And what goals do you have?

My goal is to perform at my best level in L’Avenir. I hope to be there for the team and maybe even be in the final for a stage win. I go to France with confidence and I believe I can do good. But my main goal is to get back completely mentally, and to find my top level before the season ends. And then I hope to take a win in a race. I don’t care which race. I just want to end the season with a top podium spot.

– What are your plans for 2015?

I haven’t made plans for next year yet, but I hope to stay with Michael and Christa Skelde on CULT Energy Vital Water.

Dylan Teuns: “BMC – the most important step of my career”

Dylan Teuns

The Tour de l’Avenir, the most prestigious stage race on the U23 scene, starts today, and one of the riders who are hoping to shine in France is Dylan Teuns. The 22-year-old Belgian cyclist of BMC Development has had a strong season so far, with stage wins in the Tour de Bretagne and Giro della Valle d’Aosta, and podiums in other important races, such as Liège–Bastogne–Liège and Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. His potential didn’t go unnoticed and so the BMC Racing Team offered him a multi-year contract from next season.

After the 2.HC Tour of Utah – another race in which Dylan Teuns had a solid ride, winning the best young rider jersey – I caught up with him and asked him a couple of questions about his season and future plans.

– Dylan, in the first part of the year you had many strong results, including some wins. Which was the most important and why? 

I think the most important one is my victory in Tour de Bretagne, because it was the third time I raced there and I had seen that the guys who did well in Bretagne – Riccardo Zoidl, Julian Alaphilippe, Reinardt Janse Van Rensburg – went pro the next season.

– Do you have any regret?    

The only regret I have is my second place in Liège–Bastogne–Liège, where I made the mistake of thinking that I had won and didn’t expect anyone to pass me, but that is racing.

– How important was BMC Development for your development?

I learned a lot from Rik Verbrugghe, his experience in race tactics and riding a final helped me a lot.

– A couple of weeks ago, you raced the Tour of Utah. How was it?

It was an amazing experience, it was my first race with the BMC Pro Team as a stagiaire and my first on another continent. I arrived in Utah one week before the race to meet up with the team and all went very well. Utah is very beautiful and the sceneries are breathtaking, I liked it a lot. To be the best young rider and end up in 18th place in such a race gave me huge confidence for next season.

– Now you’re going to L’Avenir. What do you think of the parcours?

It’s the third time I will race the Tour de l’Avenir and the parcours is always relatively flat in the beginning and builds up for the climbs on the last days of the race. I like the last stages more than the first ones. I always have the feeling that I become better at the end of a stage race.

– And what are your expectations? 

I always try not to have too much expectations. Of course, I’d like to win a stage, but there is only one rider who can be first. My goals are to be at a good level on the final climbs and to be in a good position in oder to fight for a stage win. A top 10 in the GC would be a good result.

– Next year you’ll turn pro with BMC. How important is this for your career?

This is the most important step of my career, there is no other step up, and to start my career with a World Tour team like BMC is a dream come true. But I have still a lot to learn and I am really happy that BMC has given me the chance to grow and to become a pro cyclist.

– Ok, one more thing: please tell me three races you dream of winning in the years to come. 

A stage in the Tour the France, the World Championships, and Liège–Bastogne–Liège.

Odd Christian Eiking: “I want a top-3 finish in L’Avenir”

Odd Christian Eiking

In his first season with Team Joker, 19-year-old Odd Christian Eiking already made some waves in the races he did and showed himself to be one of the most brightest prospects of Norwegian cycling. After a 3rd place at the National Championships in June, he raced the Giro della Valle d’Aosta and had a superb performance, finishing 2nd in the GC. That result – the best of a Norwegian rider in the Italian race – made him more confident ahead of his next two big goals of the season, the Tour de l’Avenir and the World Championships.

– Odd, how did you start cycling?

It all started when I was 10. At that point I wasn’t into the Tour de France or anything like that, I just started because I liked to ride my bike. The first couple of years it was nothing serious, I played football and did cross-country skiing. Only when I was around 14-15 years I started to get more serious.

– Did you have an idol you looked up to?

I’ve had a couple of idols that inspired me, but the rider I think is the most inspiring is Alberto Contador, because of his attacking riding style.

– How would you describe yourself as a rider?

I have proven I’m good on the climbs and in the tougher races, but there are still some things I need to work on. For example, I want to be a better time trialist. Also, I have to improve my positioning in the peleton.

– How did you end up riding for Joker?

I had a pretty good Tour of Berlin last year (ed. – 3rd in stage 1 and 10th overall) and a couple of weeks after that I’ve won a race in the National Cup. Joker is the best team in Norway, therefore it was natural for me to say yes when they came with a contract offer.

– In June, you were very impressive at the Nationals and finished 3rd. How was the race?

The race was like many other Championships, pretty tough with many small breakaway attempts all day. In the second-to-last lap I managed to break away with some other guys. The last time up the only hill on the circuit I tried to attack and go solo, but I was caught on the flat section before the finish. Afterwards, I was pretty thrilled with my 3rd place, it was above the expectations I’ve had before the start.

– One month later, you’ve had a great Giro Valle d’Aosta, finishing 2nd overall and in the top 11 of each stage. Did you expect such results?

I came into that race aiming for a top result. I thought I could do a top-5 result, and I was 3rd before the final stage. Finishing 2nd in the end was a really good result for me.

– What other races will you do until the end of the season?

The next race now is Tour de l’Avenir, where I hope for a podium finish in the GC. After that, I’m going to the World Championships in Ponferrada.

– Are you thinking about turning pro next year?

I think I will stay with Joker for one more season, at least the first half of next year. It can be good for me to gain more experience before turning pro. But I will take a decision after this season

– And what dreams do you have?

My dream is to get a nice result in the Tour de France, and by this I mean to do a good GC or to win a stage. I think I could also do pretty good in some of the Classics, like Liège–Bastogne–Liège or Il Lombardia.

Fredrik Ludviggson: “I hope to be in the World Tour next season”

Just 20-year-old and in his first season with Giant-Shimano Development, Fredrik Ludvigsson had a strong year, and despite of a knee injury, clocked some good results in the Circuit des Ardennes, the Tour de Normandie, Le Triptyque des Monts et Châteaux, Liège-Bastogne-Liège and also at the National Championships.

Now he is ready for a new chapter of his career, which will start in just two weeks, when he’ll ride for Giant-Shimano as a stagiaire in the Arctic Race of Norway. More on his season and the expectations he has for the next races you can read in the following interview, which I did last week, when Fredrik Ludvigsson was preparing for the Tour d’Alsace, his first race in a month.

– Fredrik, how did you start cycling?

I’ve started cycling a long time ago as a mountain biker, when I was just nine. My brother (ed. – Tobias Ludvigsson) did mountain bike, so I also wanted to try, I did that and I liked it, and then I started cycling. At that time, I was also playing ice hockey, so in the winter I trained for ice hockey and in the summer for cycling. I did that for a really long time, but then I stopped playing hockey when I was around 16 to focus on cycling.

– How were the first years?

My first years were good, I had talent and I won some races, so it was fun, even if the level in Sweden isn’t great. Cycling in Sweden is not so big and there aren’t many riders, but we have some strong cyclists and it’s really difficult to win races.

– Last year you rode for Team People4you–Unaas Cycling, while this year you are riding for Giant-Shimano Development. Can you make a comparison between the two teams?

There aren’t big differences, I’ve did some good races last year and also now, but last year everyone talked the same language compared to this year, when we have a lot of different kind of languages. Of course, Giant-Shimano Development is more professional, but the differences aren’t so big. I have developed my language skills and I’m also a bit smarter than last year. Unfortunately, because of the injuries and the other problems I’ve had, I didn’t develop so much and the results of this year weren’t as good as those of last season.

– In the past two seasons you’ve had some impressive results. What’s the one that makes you the most proud of?

That has to be the ITT and the GC win in the Boucle de l’Artois. It’s not the biggest race in the world, but to get a win is always nice.

– You are a good time triallist, but you also climb well. Are you thinking of developing into a stage race rider in the future?

That’s true, and I also have a good recovery and just feel better and better with every stage. In the future, if I can develop my time trial and my climbing skills, I think I can do well in stage races like Paris-Nice, Tirreno-Adriatico, and of course, in the three Grand Tours.

– Did you expect to be selected as a stagiaire for Giant-Shimano from August 1st?

No, actually I didn’t expect this after having a year with a lot of injuries and knee problems. But maybe they saw some potential in me, because I had pretty good results in some hard stage races, despite my leg problems, so they wanted to see me also on the big stage, which makes me very happy. Being a stagiaire is something really big for me, a dream come true, to ride at the highest level with the best riders in the world is just crazy, and I’m going to give everything I can to do well, so that next year I can make my World Tour debut.

As a stagiaire, you’ll ride the Arctic Race of Norway and the Tour of Britain. What will be your expectations for these races?

I want to have good results in the GC of both races, but I don’t know if it will be possible in Norway, because in the last four weeks I didn’t train almost at all on the bike, after a long first half of the season with many health problems and many races. I had a long rest after the Swedish Nationals and then I just did some mountain bike, running and gym for seven days. Afterwards, I was sick for a week, so in the last four weeks I’ve lost a lot of training. But we are going to both races with really good teams and I want to do a good job for the team. Besides the Arctic Race of Norway and Tour of Britain, I also want to get a good result at the World Championships.

Davide Formolo, on his 2014 season

He started cycling at the age of six, and 15 years later became a pro in the World Tour with Cannondale and already caught the eye of many with his strong results. His name – Davide Formolo – a big Italian hope and a rider tipped by many as a future Grand Tour winner. And why not? So far this season, he was 4th in the Tour of Turkey, 7th in the Tour de Suisse, and 2nd at the National Championships, where he lost only to Vincenzo Nibali, who now leads the Tour de France halfway through the race. Now, while preparing for the races he’ll do in the second part of the season, Davide made some time for the following interview.

– Davide, how were the years spent in the U23 ranks?  

There were good times, especially when I was with the team and was not racing. You could always find something fun to do. In terms of results, I can say that the most important was the 6th place in the Tour de l’Avenir. My regret is that I didn’t finish higher, but the good part is that I felt ok on the climbs.

– Your first important result as a neo-pro came in the Tour of Turkey (ed. – 4th place). Did you expect it?  

Honestly, no. The team’s coaches told me that I was at a good level, I had what it took to get a good ranking, so I raced without knowing how I’ll handle it, but with the hope that I’ll get a good result, which happened in the end.

– Two months later, you raced the Tour de Suisse. 

During Suisse I had many emotions, it was my first World Tour race, and it was something completely different. I am pleased with the final result, for me it was very nice to finish in 7th place.

– How were the National Championships?  

The team told me that I could get a good result, and that I can handle the race well, but I really did not know what to expect. So I decided to trust the team and do my best. In the end I was a little upset, because at the National Championships there’s a big difference between being first or second. I was really sad, because I’ve lost for only a couple of meters. Eventually, I calmed myself down and I said to myself that the second place it’s a fine result.

– What is your schedule for the second half of the season?  

I’ll go to the Tour of Poland, USA Pro Cycling Challenge, Tour of Alberta, Grand Prix Grand Prix of Quebec, and Grand Prix of Montreal. Currently, I have not talked to the team about my goals, but I want to give my best.

– Will you race the World Championships?  

I do not know. I’m not familiar with the parcours and I have no idea if Davide Cassani is willing to go there with a neo-pro.

Yvon Sanquer: “We want a stage win”

One of France’s oldest teams, Cofidis came to the Grande Boucle with one well-defined goal: winning a stage, but this will be a difficult task considering that many other teams have the same goal, and also the fact that the last win of Cofidis here came back in 2008. Nicolas Edet, Egoitz Garcia, Cyril Lemoine, Luis Angel Mate, Rudy Molard, Daniel Navarro, Adrien Petit, Julien Simon, and Rein Taaramäe are the nine riders who started the Tour de France and Yvon Sanquer, the manager of Cofidis, is confident they can help the team have a strong race during these three weeks.

– Mister Sanquer, who will be the leader of Cofidis for the Tour de France?

This year is a different situation, so our goal is to win one stage. We don’t think of a good GC, even tough Dani Navarro was 9th last season. This year the Tour de France has cobbles and more tricky stages, so we know it’s very difficult to have a rider in the top ten. This is why we prefer to focus instead on a stage win. Dani Navarro is in good shape, his mind is focused on the Tour de France and he wants to be the one to win that stage. Anyway, we’ll take the race day by day.

– What are your expectations from Rein Taaramäe?

We hope he is ready to do some nice things, as he did in the past, now that he doesn’t have any health problems anymore. He came back at a good level just before of the Tour of Turkey and we are confident he can be a protagonist in the mountains. I know he wants to win a stage and if he does that it will be important for his confidence. During the Dauphiné he had a crash and it was difficult for him, but in the last stages he felt better, he attacked and showed he regained his legs. That was a good sign for the Tour de France.

– And how about Julien Simon?

He gives us many possibilities, because he is a puncheur and can get a good result in the stages with medium mountains. Remember he was close of winning a stage last year, in Lyon, but was caught with just one kilometer to go. I was impressed by his form at the National Championships and that’s why I think he can help us win a stage.

– In your team there’s also a rookie, Adrien Petit.

We have Adrien for the first half of the Tour de France. He had a good Vuelta last year, he developed a lot, and we are curious to see him in the cobbled stage, because he was strong in Paris-Roubaix. We hope to see him also on the flat, in the sprints, but we will also encourage him to attack and go in the breakaways.

– What do you think of the parcours of the Tour de France?

The first difficult stage will be the second, which will not be easy to manage. After that, it’s important to escape without any problems from stage five, where many riders will have problems and lose time. The Vosges stages will be very difficult, even more difficult than the big mountain stages. I think we can have a surprise there, especially in the last stage. In the Vosges there are a lot of climbs, no flat, narrow roads, and we have to climb all the time. The stage to Risoul and the ones in the Pyrenees will also be tough, but I expect the Vosges stages to be the most difficult this year.

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