Stefan Küng, a future cycling star
BMC Racing Team made eight transfers for the new season, and one of the riders who signed with the US team is the very promising Stefan Küng, one of the most fascinating young cyclists in the peloton. Just 21-years-old, Küng showed glimpses of his great potential very early, back in 2011, when he shone in the Berner Rundfahrt – which he won – and in the Tour du Pays de Vaud, a race he went on to finish 3rd, after taking a stage along the way.
As an U23 rider, the Swiss signed with BMC Development and made a name for himself during the past two seasons, winning the Giro del Belvedere, the Tour de Normandie, Flèche Ardennaise and both races (road and time trial) at the European Championships in Nyon. As if this wasn’t enough to underline his potential, Küng finished second at the Swiss Nationals, less than one minute behind four-time world champion Fabian Cancellara.
Very strong in the time trials and made for the cobbled Classics (Tour of Flanders, Paris-Roubaix) – which he dreams of winning in the future – Stefan Küng is powerful also on the track. Most recently, we could see this at the 2014 World Championships, where he took silver in the individual pursuit and bronze in the Madison race.
In 2015, Stefan Küng will be mixing road and track, and his first race as a pro will be the Dubai Tour. Wanting to know more about his expectations for this year, I contacted Mister Sean Weide, BMC’s press officer, and he helped me get in touch with the Swiss neo-pro and take him the following interview.
– Stefan, how did you get involved in cycling?
It was by fun, I would say. It wasn’t like the family was behind, I just love sports in general and cycling especially. Then a neighbour of mine was riding a lot and sometimes he took me on the rides, so when I was 10-years-old I asked my mother if I could join a club or if I could do some races. I had to call the president of the cycling club in the area and they gave me a bike, I did the first race after two weeks with the new bike and then things went on and on. I liked it, I always did it for fun and when I discovered I’m pretty good at it and I can win races it became more fun. As an U17 I got to go in some races abroad, then as a Junior came the first World Championships, then the first European title on the track, and then, as an U23 I really started to focus on cycling and here I am now, with the BMC Racing Team, as a pro rider in the World Tour.
– Let’s talk about your U23 years. Which of the successes you had is on the top of your accomplishments?
I would say the two European titles, on the road and in the time trial. It was a really important event for the Swiss Cycling Federation and for myself as well, and I really fixed that as a big goal in my calendar. To win both titles there it was a really special thing and it is until now the greatest achievement of my career.
– How about the ITT at the Swiss National Championships, do you have mixed feelings about that? On one hand you got a nice silver medal, behind Fabian Cancellara, but on the other hand you had a problem at the start.
I had two screws to fix the back wheel and one of them broke so the wheel blocked and the same happened to the brakes. I saw it at first and I went again, but I had to change bikes, so after 500 meters I already had to stop twice and probably lost about a minute there. At the first time check I was 56 seconds down to Fabian Cancellara and at the finish 49. When I think about it I’m still happy and maybe it’s better like that, because I was there and at the end of the day I knew that I was able to perform at the same level with Cancellara. Sure, he wasn’t in the best shape, but he’s a four-time world champion and he’s a big idol also, and so it was pretty great to see I am able to compete at a top level. A couple of days before I already signed the pro contract, so I knew then that I made the right decision.
– Talking about your success on the track, how did the track background helped you on the road?
It still helps me a lot, because on the track you get the speed in your legs, it’s a fixed gear and you get a good pedal stroke. It’s high cadence racing, high intensity, and you have to know how to move in the bunch, how to use your elbows and body in order to get the best position. In my opinion is the best school you can have as an athlete and it really helps you grow. I still love the track and I still do it, because it’s a nice change from the long road races to short and very intense action.
– You’re now attending the team’s second training camp in Denia. Tell me how the first one was and how you’re feeling going into this one.
The team is good, I really like the spirit in the team. It’s a good group of guys, we laugh a lot and have fun. My form is pretty good, I’m happy with it, and I have the Dubai Tour coming up and then the Track World Championships. I also did some track training since the London World Cup and I’m really excited to start racing in my first season as a pro.
– Will we see you doing any of the pre-race program when Rohan Dennis does his Hour Record attempt, are you involved in that?
I won’t be there. It’s a pity, but I arrive that day from Dubai. I wish him luck for that and I really hope he can do it. I know the Grenchen velodrome well, I spent a lot of time on it and it would be great if he could do it, next to the BMC headquarters.
– What goals do you have for 2015?
I’m a neo-pro and every neo-pro says he wants to learn and get some experience, but that will come along on the way, so my goal is to take a chance if I’ll have it. I’m not here just to learn, I want to win races. Even if I’m pro, I think I have a chance in a shorter time trial or in a race from a lower class. If I’ll be there in the finale, I’m sure I can play my cards.
– And as your career moves forward, are there any big jewels of cycling races that you’d like to win?
The Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix suit me very well, so of course these are two of my dreams. Also, as a Swiss rider, the Tour de Suisse is very important and to get a stage there one day it would be great. At the moment I don’t think about that, I think more of races like the Three Days of West Flanders, where I can be competitive with the best. I want to take things step by step and maybe in a few years I’ll sit here and talk about if I’ll be able to win Paris-Roubaix.