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Sindre Lunke, guest of the week at Cafe Roubaix

No one can’t argue that Norway is a real cradle of talent, which in the past years has supplied the World Tour with a lot of fascinationg prospects, from Edvald Boasson Hagen and Alexander Kristoff, to Sondre Holst Enger, Sven Erik Bystrøm and Kristoffer Skjerping. Next year, a new generation of Norwegian talents will make its debut in the pro ranks, and one of the most interesting young riders to watch out for will be 22-year-old Sindre Lunke.

Hailing from Trondheim, he raced in 2015 with Team Joker and managed to confirm the strong results he scored one year earlier and take things to a whole new level. During this past season, Sindre finished in the top 10 in two of the most toughest stage races of the U23 calendar – Giro della Valle d’Aosta (8th) and Tour de l’Avenir (7th) – which offered a tantalising glimpse into what to expect later in his career. These important results he delivered didn’t go unnoticed, and they were followed by a World Tour contract that the young Norwegian was dreaming of for some time.

So, as it goes, Sindre Lunke signed a two-year contract with Giant-Alpecin, a team which made a name for itself from the development of young cyclists, a team which he sees as the perfect environment to thrive and to continue his improvement. Recently, after the squad’s first meeting ahead of 2016, Sindre made some time to talk for Cafe Roubaix about his season, as well as the challenges and joys of chasing a career in pro cycling.

– Sindre, how did your career in cycling began?

I started cycling when I was 15-years-old. My dad rides his bike very often, so I got inspired by him. He was cycling every day, from home and to work, despite bad weather conditions, and showed he is a really tough guy. When it is winter in Trondheim, the conditions can be really bad, and with mountain bike and spikes on the tyres, it is hard and can be dangerous at some times. But I saw that it was possible to ride the bike every day, no matter the weather, and this got me going.

– What do you remember from your first years?

Together with my dad I began taking short trips on my mountain bike, and later that year I finally got my first road bike and joined the local club, the Trondheim Velociped Club. I met a very motivated leader, called “Terje Tho”. This guy was one of the most important persons I have ever met, and he helped me develop as a rider, thanks to a very good training schedule and back-up on trainings. He organized the team as it was a Continental one, and we rode some UCI races in Croatia, Denmark, Norway and Sweden. It was very hard to compete against good Continental teams in Croatia when I was a first year senior, but overall it was very good experience and I’ve learned a lot from it.

– Besides climbing, what other strong points would you say you have at this moment?

As you said, my strongest side is climbing and my engine is big, so I think I can make some progress in time trials, if I find a good position on the bike and train more for it. You have to be good in time trials if you want do develop as a good general classification rider.

– In the past seasons, you scored many strong results. Which was the most important for you?

I think the most significant result for me was to finish fifth in the general classification of the Giro della Valle d’Aosta, in 2014. That was my debut race for the U23 Norwegian team, and I showed that I was doing well in long mountains and hard stage races.

– What meant for you to finish the 2015 Tour de l’Avenir in the top ten?

This year’s Tour de l’Avenir was really hard! It was almost full gas on every mountain stage, so I am happy for my seventh place on the GC. Of course, it was a disappointing last stage of the race, when I began on fourth place in the overall standings and aimed for the top three. I didn’t have a good rhythm, couldn’t find the right pace and I wasn’t so smart when Gregor Mühlberger and Sam Oomen attacked before Lacets de Montvernier. Then I got a technical on the top of the hill and had to wait for the car, so I lost a lot of time there. But that’s cycling.

– As an U23 cyclist, you also raced against the pros in some races. How was it to see you can mix it up with them and even finish ahead of many?

In some events I raced against many pros together with Team Joker, but this year in L’Avenir it was a new rule that pros under the age of 23 could also participate. It was a good feeling that I could fight and do well against them, and even finish ahead of some. If you get a confirmation that you can do a good GC in the Tour de l’Avenir, you can also do well sometimes when you ride against the pro peloton. Just look at this year’s winner, Marc Soler, who scored a couple of good results in some races this season.

– In 2016 you’ll turn pro with Giant-Alpecin. What’s the story of this transfer?

Well, after L’Avenir I was a bit disappointed and thought that my chance was gone. I got in touch with Aike Visbeek and asked if the roster is full for next year. They were interested in me and after that, I talked to Sports Director Marc Reef, when I went to Belgium with Team Joker, and by doing this I got to know more of the way the team is organized. I felt that this team had good ambitions for the future and I liked the way they develop young riders. I had to wait a bit before they did the selection, so I thought that they did not want to choose me, but when I got the phone call from Marc Reef with the confirmation that they wanted to sign me, I got goosebumps. For two nights after I got the message I couldn’t sleep almost at all and did not believe that it was true. It was really hard to keep it a secret also from friends. So when the signing was made public, it really was a relief.

– How was the first meeting with the team?

The first gathering took place in Deventer, in the Netherlands, where I met almost the whole team and all the staff members. I was nervous before the first reunion, but it was really easy to talk to everybody. Everyone talks good English and it was a lot of new faces to get to know. It was as big as I expected to be and it was really impressive to see all the staff members and how much planning there is to do in a World Tour team, but I liked it a lot, and with many meetings, photo shoots, bike fitting and so on, the days went fast. We had a lot of fun after the meetings also, so I am really looking forward to the first training camp and to get to know the boys better.

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

I had a meeting with the coaches and talked about how things work in a World Tour team. They have a good strategy for developing young riders and they have shown that with both Warren Barguil and Tom Dumoulin. I think the race program looks very interesting and it includes a lot of exciting races. I will keep on improving my climbing, but the most important improvement I have to make is in the time trial, as I want to be a very good all-rounder.

– And how about you? What are your hopes and goals?

My hopes and goals for 2016 are to become better in the mountains and hills, and also to support the team’s leaders and do a good job. I think the first races will be very hard, but I think the way of racing in the World Tour suits me a lot, as there’s a lot of climbing there. I also want to try a Grand Tour – Vuelta a España would be a strong option – but I have to see how my body reacts after the races in the spring. Long-term, I want to be a strong GC contender for a Grand Tour. It is, of course, a big step, but I like long stage races with many mountains and I think these suit me. I would love to win a hard mountain stage in a Grand Tour, and a good fit would be the Giro d’Italia, which looks fantastic.

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