Classics and Tour de France focus for Valgren in 2017

Dane aiming for Ardennes and helping Fuglsang to top five in July

Michael Valgren finds himself on a new team in 2017, with Astana, but starts his year in familiar surrounds at the Tour Down Under after a long off-season.

Whereas the 24-year-old Dane has previously headed Down Under for the WorldTour opener with personal aspirations, Valgren is on team duty this week with the Classics and a third Tour de France his major ambitions as he hasn't raced since September's Eneco Tour.

Valgren's professional wins have so far all come on home soil, winning the national road race title in 2014, and the Tour of Denmark in 2014 and 2016. A successful rider in the junior and U23 ranks, Valgren enjoyed success across the continent with back-to-back wins at Liège-Bastogne-Liège Espoirs hinting at his pathway into the elite ranks. Second place at the Amstel Gold Race last year suggested he can also contest the hilly classics in the top tier of the sport but new for 2017 is a focus on the cobbled classics.

"I hope I can perform well in Paris-Nice, maybe one of the stage there and then we will see," Valgren told Cyclingnews of his early season goals. "For the first time I will start in Belgium with the classics so I will see how it goes there and get some experience. For sure, the Ardennes will be the big goal for me."

The classics, both cobbled and hilly, continue to be important for Astana who has assembled several news riders, including Valgren's compatriot Jesper Hansen, as the team strives for further success in the one-day races.

"We have Matti [Breschel] there and Oscar [Gatto] and [Alexey] Lutsenkso and [Laurens] De Vreese so we actually have a pretty strong team. We are all pretty equal and I think we will all get our chances and see who has the legs on the day," Valgren said of the balance to Astana's classics roster.

Post-classics, Valgren is down to race his third consecutive Tour having helped former teammate Peter Sagan to green jersey success with Tinkoff. In 2017, Valgren's role will be to assist Jakob Fuglsang's bid for general classification success.

"At the moment I am set to ride the Tour with Jakob. It will be pretty interesting to help a national fellow and go for a good GC there. It will be fun," explained Valgren.

"He was seventh in 2013 and I believe he is stronger now. Ok, maybe his opponent is also stronger but I think if we are lucky and everything goes in our direction, we can go for a top five."

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