After claiming seventh overall at this year's Tour de France, Jakob Fulgsang is ready to put his shoulder to the wheel to help Vincenzo Nibali's yellow jersey ambitions in 2014. With Nibali set to forgo the Giro d'Italia in order to focus exclusively on the Tour, Fuglsang had been provisionally pencilled in as one of Astana's leaders for the corsa rosa, although he acknowledged that he may yet be required to build his season around the Tour instead.
"I think we'll decide at the end of next month when we have the first camp with the team, but I could imagine a programme that would be Giro for me to start with and then the Tour afterwards," Fuglsang told Cyclingnews at the route presentation at the Palais des Congrès in Paris on Wednesday. "We will see how they will manage it, or if we go all in for the Tour and if Nibali and myself have to be there at 100 percent.
"Right now, it's not certain who is going to go where but we will be able to build a strong team for the Tour, that's for sure."
Although Richie Porte is expected to lead Sky at the Giro, his manager Dave Brailsford hinted that the British squad might not spread its resources as evenly between the Giro and the Tour as it did this year, when Bradley Wiggins made an abortive bid to claim the maglia rosa. The thinking could well be similar at Astana, where, regardless of his participation in the Giro, Fuglsang seems likely to act as a deluxe domestique for Nibali in July.
"For sure, I'd like to do the Giro, but I'm also aware that if we have to beat Froome and Sky in next year's edition of the Tour then we have to come with the strongest team possible. If the team wants me to be there, then I will be there and I'll be ready," Fuglsang said.
As for the 2014 parcours, Fuglsang believes that the absence of an early time trial to define the general classification will make the Tour a difficult race for any one team to control. "At the Vuelta a España this year, the jersey was changing a lot in the beginning of the race, and I think we could see something like that in the Tour too," he said. "It's going to be more difficult for sure, and more guys are going to have the chance to get the jersey and they're going to try and grab the chance."
Scarponi, Pellizotti and the MPCC
On Tuesday, it was reported that Michele Scarponi had reached a verbal agreement to sign for Astana in 2014, adding to the strength in depth at Nibali's disposal and bringing another potential Giro leader to the squad, although Fuglsang appeared unsure if news of the transfer was based on a concrete agreement or conjecture.
"I think Vino [Astana general manager Alexandre Vinokourov] said that he heard the same rumours. I don't know if he's coming or not. I think he's a good guy and for sure he's a good rider, so why not," Fuglsang said.
One Italian rider who is confirmed to ride for Astana in 2014 is Franco Pellizotti, who arrives from Androni-Venezuela, although it remains unclear as to when he will ride his first race with his new team. Pellizotti served a two-year ban from May 2010 to May 2012 after irregularities were found in his biological passport, and according to MPCC (Movement for Credible Cycling) rules, the Italian cannot ride for an MPCC-affiliated team for a further two years - that is, until May 2, 2014.
"The team is now a full member of the MPCC and that also means that if Pellizotti comes, then the team has to follow the rules of the MPCC," Fulgsang told Cyclingnews. Given the chequered history of the team, which includes Vinokourov's own two-year ban for blood doping, Fuglsang is aware of the significance of adhering to MPCC regulations.
"There's some less good things concerning doping have happened on this team in the past, and the team has tried to clean its image," Fuglsang said. "One of the points is to stay in the MPCC. They are fighting against doping and for a clean sport, and doing even more than what is done by WADA, so I think it's important to stay in there."