A lesser known rider pedalled fluidly and aggressively alongside Dutchman Robert Gesink from Rabobank during the critical, difficult sector of the climb of the Mont Ventoux on Thursday. Who was the rider clad in the black and white of Saxo Bank who put on such a spectacle? It was the classy former mountain bike champion Jakob Fuglsang, who went on to finish fifth at the top of the Giant of Provence. The 24-year-old moved up to 10th in the general classification with the performance.
"I was good today and it was a nice surprise because I was stressed after riding yesterday's time trial, it was so long," the Dane told Cyclingnews at the Mont Ventoux. Very quickly after his epic ride, he appeared fresh and smiling in contrast to many riders who crossed the line with a lot of difficulty, mostly due to the strong wind in the last part of the climb.
"Out of the forest, I started to feel very good, so I tried to go on my own," he continued. "Gesink closed on me and I couldn't follow him at some stage, but this was my first real test in a legendary climb with the big riders of the Tour de France. My previous experience was climbing up to Andorra at the Volta Catalunya." He finished sixth overall in the Spanish race, which was a sign of form prior to the Dauphiné.
Fuglsang switched from dirt to road after winning the Tour of Denmark last year. He doesn't have the pressure of taking part in the Tour de France this year as he is still in a learning period, but the Dauphiné could well be the start of his career as a climbing star.