Oskar Svendsen: “I can become a GC rider”
Five years ago, he was at the start of a mountain bike race called Birkebeinerrittet, and although that was just his first race, Oskar Svendsen finished in the top 15. Impressed by his potential, some friends suggested that it would be a good idea to try road cycling, and that’s just what the young Norwegian did, inspired also by Edvald Boasson Hagen, who comes from the same town, Lillehammer.
Then, in September 2012, on the hilly circuit of Valkenburg, Oskar Svendsen (just 18 then) won the Juniors individual time trial at the World Championships, thus becoming the first Norwegian rider to get the gold medal in this race. Next season, encouraged by that result, but also by his VO2 max of 97.5 ml/kg/min, the highest-ever recorded in professional sport, he made the step to the U23 ranks, where he gained a lot of experience, that could turn out to be very important this season, in which Oskar – who will ride for Team Joker – hopes to show that he is not just an ITT rider, but a complete one, capable of fighting for the win in stage races.
– Oskar, I want to start with your 2013 season, in which you had some good results, including a top 5 in the Tour de l’Avenir, but no individual wins. What did you miss?
Last season was challenging in many ways, and I learned a lot. Of course, I missed some better results in many of the races I did, but most of all, I missed an all over better stability in the UCI races we did. And I guess that is something I am working on every day.
– Was it difficult to make the transition from the Junior to the U23 ranks?
Yes, for me, I think that has been the biggest challenge so far. As I went straight into a Continental team, and finished school at the same time, the transition was a big leap to pass. I have good physical qualities, but still got a lot to work with on the more technical and tactical races. That made the leap even bigger.
– How was the winter training ahead of this year, with what feelings do you start the season?
The winter training has been pretty good. I’ve been a lot to Spain and kept myself healthy all the way through. So I’m starting the season with low expectations and doing the first races with my focus on training and improving the qualities I need to work with. But I also know that I need to do this season on a higher level than last year, so I’m looking for improvements and I hope to make steps in every race.
– Did you work on something specific? What did you improve?
We just had a lot of long distance trainings, and also worked on improving our own qualities. For myself, I did put an effort on the climbs, and also worked on handling the attacks on the climbs better. I think that I did improve on getting into the feeling of using a lot of power after a long distance, but as I did in recent years, I always spare some of the boost for the season.
– Are you satisfied after your first race?
The first race was really hard. We did Ster van Zwolle in the Netherlands, which is a really hectical race, with a lot of crosswind areas. I really have a lot to improve in this kind of races, and at the time, I am not really good at it. So, it didn’t went very well, but I’m getting there, race by race.
– What is your programme for 2014?
My main programme for 2014 is doing the Circuit des Ardennes and Tour de Bretagne in April, followed by some UCI races in Norway, before the Tour of Norway in May, and then the Nationals, before the Giro della Valle d’Aosta in June. The programme after those races isn’t set yet, but most likely, I will also do the Tour de Alsace and Tour de l’Avenir.
– And what goals do you have?
My main goals will be the Tour of Norway, Giro della Valle d’Aosta, Tour de l’Avenir and the World Championships, although the course in Ponferrada could have suited me better.
– People said after your win in Valkenburg that you can become a phenomenon in the ITT, but do you think there is more to that and you can be a strong rider also in stage races, in order to fight for the GC?
Yes, absolutely. My main focus will be to keep on develop my physical capacity. That means working on my VO2 max and threshold. I hope it will make me a better time trialist, but also better on the climbs. So yes, I see myself as a GC rider in the future and I will keep on working with my time trial bike.
– Are you thinking of going pro in 2015?
The most important thing for me now is to have most of the focus on becoming ready to be a pro. I know that it’s possible, and I think I will get there. But still, I don’t want to become a pro before I know and got the confidence to take the next step. If I am ready next year or the year after, I don’t know. But I will give it a little time.