Jakob Fuglsang (RadioShack-Nissan) is aware that the Giro d’Italia could be the most important race of his career to date. The Danish rider has talked up his chances of a strong overall performance in the Italian grand tour and with his contract set to expire at the end of the current season his performance over the three weeks could determine his further path in the sport.
Fuglsang turned from mountain biking to the road several years ago, lured to Saxo Bank by Bjarne Riis. He quickly found his feet, with a top ten placing at the 2009 Dauphiné Libéré, and third at the Tour de Suisse a year later.
At the Tour de France he rode in support of the Schleck brothers in both 2010 and 2011 but his performance at last year’s Vuelta, where he finished 11th, showed that a strong performance over three weeks is possible.
“It’s the most important year of my career,” he told Cyclingnews.
“I’m getting older and more or less from now I should start to prove to myself and others that I can do the things my early potential showed. And this isn’t a bad year to do it. I also need to sign a new contract at the end of this year and I’m hoping it will be a long one. Yes, this is a really important year.”
Whatever his Giro performance amounts to, Fuglsang will hardly struggle to find a suitor for next year, but if he can raise a performance that cements him as a genuine contender in three week stage races then he will have a strong bargaining position come negotiations. But for now, he remains focused on his racing objectives, putting off his future plans until the race is over.
“I won’t really think about the contract side of things until after the Giro. For now, all I’m focusing on is the Giro,” he said.
Fuglsang first made his Giro intentions clear at the 2012 race presentation in October. The race starts in his home country but he’s using that as motivation during the cold winter months as he trains at his new base in Luxembourg.
“I’m not nervous and it motivates me and I’m looking forward to it. Yes, it’s out of my comfort zone and sure there are going to be situations along the way when I’m not feeling so comfortable and I’m not sure about how I will do, but I believe in myself and what I can do.”
It is still unclear who else RadioShack-Nissan will send to the Giro. There is still an option of Frank Schleck targeting the race after team boss Johan Bruyneel admitted that he hadn’t ruled out the possibility.
That possibility could see Fuglsang’s ambitions curtailed but at the team’s presentation in Luxembourg last week he remained confident that he was riding for the right team despite having been courted by a number of other teams in the off season.
The merger between Leopard and RadioShack saw a number of riders and staff leave the Luxembourg set-up, and the lack of communication during the interim months seems to have stretched morale, although Fuglsang was quick to point out that he’d made the right decision in staying.
“I was sceptical to start with. Other guys had to leave the team, even when they had contracts but in the end everyone found a home and I’m not sceptical now. Some really good guys have come to the team and I’m sure that we’re going to have a good season,” he said.
“I didn’t see it coming though. I thought Leopard Trek would exist for at least the four years and that’s what we were told to start with, so I didn’t expect to stand here with a new team again. But that’s how it goes and we have to look forward and get the best out of it. There were other teams interested and yes, I was looking around as well because of the minimal amount of information we were being given. Of course you start looking a bit and other teams showed interest.”