Parts of Kasper Asgreen’s 2022 season programme were so predictable they are barely newsworthy. A return to the Tour of Flanders and E3 Harelbeke, where he out-gunned the big-name favourites in 2021, was always on the cards. A crack at the opening time trial of the Tour de France, particularly given its Copenhagen location, was equally likely for a three-time Danish champion in the discipline. But Amstel Gold Race?
One reason for his debut in the hilly classic is that Asgreen wants to continue to test the waters in different kinds of races: he’s 26, with plenty of time to sharpen other tools in his racing skill set. The other, as Asgreen explained at the QuickStep-AlphaVinyl team presentation, is that the change in race dates in 2022 makes this the ideal year to target the biggest one-day race in the Netherlands.
“2022 is more or less a copy-paste of last year for the Classics in the spring, but I am going to try my luck at Amstel Gold Race, now it’s been swapped over with Paris-Roubaix,” Asgreen said. “So I will start a bit slower because I’ll have a long time to stay in top form, that’s the only thing that’s changed.
“I’ve never done Amstel, so it’s a new experience, I’ll try and do my homework and recons. But in any case, I’ve always watched it on TV and it looks like a nice race.”
QuickStep-AlphaVinyl have a battle-hardened reputation for considerable strength in depth in almost any Classic in which they take part, and with Julian Alaphilippe dropping the Tour of Flanders this year to focus on the Ardennes, Asgreen’s role at Amstel Gold Race has yet to be decided.
But the Ronde is one race where his position is much more settled and high-profile. And when the subject comes up the usually amiable Dane – logically, given how Flanders played out last year – gives a slightly pointed answer when asked if QuickStep will need to rely on their collective force rather than individuals if they are to beat Mathieu van der Poel and Wout van Aert.
“They are among the very best of this generation and man-to-man they are hard to match, so having that strength in our team helps a lot. But in the Flanders final, I was one-on-one [with Van Der Poel], so it is possible and I don’t think you have to be afraid of it. You have to see it as a challenge that makes for good bike races,” Asgreen said.
“I was confident, because obviously I was aware I was with two of the race favourites, but I felt good and I knew from past years and my teammates’ experience from many more Tours of Flanders that if you feel good after 230 kilometres, you’ve done something right.
“Coming into the finish against Van der Poel, I believed I had a shot and that’s why I went to the sprint with him.”
One place where Asgreen also believes he ‘has a shot’ for sure is the opening time trial of the Tour de France, even if 13 kilometres is a little shorter than his four wins against the watch to date. For the record, the most comparable victory came over 20 kilometres at the Volta ao Algarve last year, while his hat-trick of Danish national titles came on courses of 40 kilometres or longer.
But while Asgreen prefers to highlight the course’s advantages for him – namely, the Copenhagen time trial amounts to a power rider’s course –his motivation derives more from the rare opportunity for a time trial specialist to wear yellow than the event taking place on home roads.
“It’s definitely quite a few years since the Tour began with a time trial, the last time was in Dusseldorf [in 2017] and as it happens to be in Denmark, that’s obviously great,” Asgreen said.
“But I think it would have been a big objective no matter where it started, and it will obviously be a goal for all the top time triallists around the world, so the level is going to be insanely high, particularly as it’s so long that not been a yellow up for TT.
“So it’ll be difficult. Obviously it’ll be a big experience in Denmark, but motivation-wise it doesn’t change much. I just think it’s going to be special and fun.”
As for the route, Asgreen describes it as “usually quite good for me, with a high pace and a lot of power. It’s a fast course, the first eight or nine kilometres in particular, then there’s a technical section and after that it’s quite hard.”
Whereas local sponsors and race organisers are probably all hoping for a day of glorious Scandinavian sunshine and flat calm, Asgreen will looking at the forecasts and praying that it will tip down and blow a gale. It’s not that the Dane has a masochistic taste for riding his bike in foul weather, but rather, he knows other rivals like the wet and wind an awful lot less.
“Personally, I don’t mind racing in the rain, but if somebody says they like racing in those conditions, probably what they mean is the other guys hate it. So personally I’m hoping for lots of rain, wind and in the other two stages, some echelon action,” Asgreen said.
Whether or not Asgreen’s wish will come true is hard to predict at this early juncture, but when it comes to dream scenarios, asking if he would prefer to take the yellow jersey in Copenhagen or the rainbow jersey in Australia this September does not produce an existential dilemma of the type for which his philosopher compatriot Soren Kierkegaard was so famous.
“Luckily, I don’t have to pick. If I get one I’ll be happy. Most likely the scenario is none because a lot of guys want both things,” he said. “So I don’t give myself the luxury of picking.”
But for now, either or both is possible. And together with the Classics, that’s quite a motivation for Asgreen.
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