Fuglsang accepting of designated support role next July
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Sunday, December 01, 2013

Fuglsang accepting of designated support role next July

by Kyle Moore at 12:23 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour de France
 
Dane had hoped to lead at Giro d’Italia, will ride for Nibali in Tour de France instead

Jakob FuglsangJakob Fuglsang (Astana) has not often been shy about expressing his interest in assuming leadership roles at his team’s biggest races. During his time at Saxo Bank, Radioshack-Leopard, and now at Astana, Fuglsang has been a rider willing to step up and ask for the torch in the Grand Tours.

After doing that in the Tour de France this year, Fuglsang will step back and accept a role as a super-domestique next July, as Astana’s number one rider – Vincenzo Nibali - shifts his Grand Tour focus.

With Fuglsang’s team-mate Nibali targeting and then winning the Giro d’Italia in May, the Danish rider got his leadership wish at the Tour and performed admirably, taking second place on stage nine and finishing seventh overall.

Ironically, in Fuglsang’s busiest, and perhaps best season of his career, he failed to take a victory, racing from February to October. But he was eleventh in the Volta a Catalunya, 17th in the Amstel Gold Race, and fourth in the Critérium du Dauphiné.

After the Tour, he supported Nibali in the Italian’s battle with Chris Horner at the Vuelta a España, finishing 29th himself in the process.

Having backed up the confidence he has in himself, Fuglsang attended Astana’s first team camp of this offseason and asked team management for another leadership spot in a Grand Tour next year. And while the Dane didn’t get a definitive ‘no’ for an answer, he did receive a ‘not quite yet.’

Fuglsang knew of Nibali’s plans to challenge defending champion Chris Froome (Sky Procycling) in the Tour de France, so he asked for the helm at the Giro d’Italia instead. But with Astana having signed Michele Scarponi from Lampre-Merida, the veteran Italian will lead Astana’s charge in the season’s first Grand Tour. And Fuglsang has been selected to be Nibali’s top lieutenant in the Tour.

“I’ll be a helper instead of a captain at the Tour de France this year,” Fuglsang revealed to Sporten.dk. “I can see that if we are going to try to challenge Team Sky, then we have to put out the strongest possible team and I have been chosen as one of them. I would have liked to do the Giro d’Italia, but I’ve been told by the team that this is what they want, that I be one hundred percent sharp for the Tour de France.”

Having picked up his top ten spot in the 2013 Tour, the ambitious Astana rider set his sights on a Grand Tour podium finish. After initially questioning his July demotion, Fuglsang came around on the idea.

It might also help that team leadership in the Vuelta a España is still undecided.

“At first I thought, ‘Why?’ but after talking it through with the team and hearing their ideas, I do not blame them, and I see their plan for how the team should work in the Tour. It’s not that they’re unhappy with what I delivered in the Tour de France this year. That’s not why I don’t get the role of captain.

“It’s about the fact that if we’re going to try to beat Team Sky and Chris Froome, then we need to bring in the strongest possible lineup, and I am not afraid to admit that Nibali is a better bid than me to beat Froome.”

In terms of teams finishing with two riders at the top of a Grand Tour classification, Fuglsang points to Saxo-Tinkoff this past July, as his former team placed Alberto Contador fourth and Roman Kreuziger fifth.

He’s not rooting for Nibali to finish that far off the top step, but Fuglsang knows that a team could play its cards right and battle for more than one high placing.

“Kreuziger was really a domestique for Contador, but he still finished in the top five at the Tour,” Fuglsang concluded. “You can have a rider who is going for the win and a rider who vies for the top five. You never know what will happen in the Tour de France, and I don’t see all my options being excluded.”

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