Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) has told Cyclingnews that the Tour de France will be his major objective and that he is looking forward to putting a difficult 2012 season behind him. The Dane, 27, rode for RadioShack last season but found himself on the sidelines after his relationship with former boss Johan Bruyneel fell apart. Sidelined from the Giro despite early indication that he would lead the team, Fuglsang was then benched for the majority of the season after Bruyneel discovered he was planning on leaving.
Bruyneel was dismissed from RadioShack due to his links with USADA’s report into doping at US Postal but his tenure at RadioShack was a failure with infighting, payment issues and rider morale all hitting the headlines.
“When it was announced that he was going to be the team manager, I wasn’t so happy. I wasn’t clapping my hands,” Fuglsang told Cyclingnews.
“I still tried to do my best and at the beginning the relationship wasn’t that bad. I thought I had the opportunity to lead at the Giro, like I wanted, but that then changed and from then on things turned really bad.”
Asked if it was Bruyneel’s management style or the doping revelations in USADA’s report that turned him off the Belgian, Fuglsang said: “In the end it was a little bit of both. First of all a lot of that was history. When he came in we didn’t really know everything about his past or victories with Lance. But as a team manager I never thought that he was any big manager. I think in the end Lance was running the teams and Johan was doing what Lance wanted.”
Even at last year’s team presentation in Luxembourg Bruyneel appeared to have started on the wrong foot. Riders, including Fuglsang, looked uncomfortable when discussing their new boss and the Belgian hardly helped matters by questioning his rider’s race programme ambitions in public.
“That’s the feeling I got from the first camp. I was pretty disappointed. We had no introduction, no welcome meeting, no nothing. You put two teams together and that created a lot of tension.”
A new home, a new hope
With RadioShack behind him Fuglsang can look forward to a new chapter in his career. With Astana concentrating on the Giro as their primary goal and Vincenzo Nibali their captain deluxe, Fuglsang has the opportunity to lead the team at the Tour de France. It’s an ambition that would never have materialised at RadioShack, or at Saxo Bank, who were in the hunt for the rider’s signature.
“The whole idea and ambition was that I go to the Tour as the leader. That’s been clear since the beginning. It was one of the main reasons I signed for Astana because they’d let me chase my dream and give me that chance,” he told Cyclingnews. Fuglsang has shown flashes of talent in three week stage racing with an 11th in GC at the Vuelta in 2011. With the Giro off his programme he will have to hit the ground running this year but the Tour remains the primary goal, while he is realistic about his potential.
“It’s clear I’m not one of the favourites but I’ll try my best and we’ll see how far I make it. I could get in the top ten but you just have to try. I was once 11th in the Vuelta where I rode as a captain but that was the only time I was given that role. This will be the first time I’m allowed to prepare for the Tour and give it 100 per cent so the top ten is realistic to begin with.”
“My best is still to come and I have a lot more in me. I’ve not shown my best in previous Tours. Like in 2011 when I had problems during the race with my pelvis. Everything has to come together in the right moments in order for me to compete at the highest level but I believe it can work out with Astana. They believe me and they don’t put huge pressure on me. They don’t expect me to go out there and win a Tour or step onto the podium. They’re realistic and that’s really good for me.”