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.