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Michael Valgren: A year in the pro peloton

In his first season with Tinkoff-Saxo, Michael Valgren won the national title and the Tour of Denmark, but his results can hardly be called surprising, as the young Danish rider came from the U23 ranks recommended by some very impressive wins. More than a surprise, Michael’s excellent run in 2014 was a confirmation of his huge talent, thanks to which he has been tipped to put his mark on the Classics in the following decade.

After a great season, in which he got to make his Grand Tour debut and raced at the World Championships in Ponferrada, Michael Valgren sat down to talk for Cafe Roubaix about his experience as a neo-pro and his plans for 2015, a season in which he can land a big win.

– Michael, you had 80 race days in 2014. How are you feeling after this long season?

Yeah, 80 race days sounds a lot, but I felt really good at the end of the season, so I am really happy that the team let me race for so long. Especially after the Vuelta I felt good and it was just so awesome to be like this after my first Grand Tour.

– Your first important result came in May, when you finished third in the Quatre Jours de Dunkerque. Did you expect to have such a good run?

Before the race I had no expectations, but I knew my condition was good, so I just tried not to lose time in the first couples of stages. Then, when I saw an opportunity, I took it and my team mates supported me 100%. It was very cool to have the whole team behind me, as I am a neo-pro.

– Less than two months later, you became National Champion reaching the finish line all alone. What meant for you to win the title in your first pro season?

It was really great to win the National Championships. It gave me confidence in myself for the future and it is so cool to ride in the national kit every race until next year. Also, it gives you good media time for sure, which is always good I think.

– Your biggest victory was the GC in the Tour of Denmark. How was it?

Winning on home soil is one of the biggest results out there for a Dane and in front of such a big crowd like the one in Copenhagen. It was a really emotional feeling, because my parents were following the whole Tour of Denmark and gave me so much support. They are the best!

– Was that result decisive in your selection for the Vuelta?

I honestly don’t know. I think I was in the picture, but winning for sure helped.

– Speaking of the Vuelta, you made your Grand Tour debut there. How did you enjoyed that whole experience?

The Vuelta was such a big experience, especially because Alberto (ed. Contador) won. And helping him win was just so amazing, to see that the team rode so well and tactically flawless during the race was incredible. It truly was a great experience. For sure, I will do again a Grand Tour.

– Let’s go now to the World Championships, where you attacked in the finale.

Well, at the Worlds I had good legs for sure, but I should have waited more, because in the Worlds you have to wait. On the other hand, I was a bit insecure that I was good enough for the final, so I took an opportunity and it worked out well… almost. But being there in the break was just so cool! Even though I was suffering, I’ve enjoyed it so much! After the race, when I started thinking of what happened, I realised I could have done better. But I am super happy with my performance!

– What do you feel you improved in 2014?

My endurance, for sure. Now I can do races which are over 200 km, and I showed that in the Worlds. This is good for my future: I want to win the Worlds, Liège–Bastogne–Liège, and Amstel Gold Race, and I have to be able to do long distance races! There were some periods when I could have been better, but you always have downs I think. But I had the best help from the team coaches to get me back in the right direction.

– How was the whole Kilimanjaro adventure?

It was maybe one of my biggest experiences! It had everything: fear, happiness, fatigue, success! I am glad that I’ve tried it, because it is something I would never do on my own and I will never do it again actually. Been there, done that!

– What plans do you have for next season? Are you tempted by some cobbled Classics?

I want to do my best! I have no races that I have been giving a thought, because I don’t know my program yet. But I am very fascinated by the cobbles and I would love to do those race to help Peter Sagan win there! Of course, every rider hopes for the Tour de France, but I want to take things easy. This doesn’t mean that if they give me a spot I won’t take it.

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