Carl Fredrik Hagen bounced from soccer to running and then cross-country skiing to mountain biking before eventually finding his feet at Thor Hushovd's former U23 team. In 2017 and 2018, he turned heads with a number of impressive performances, and now at the age of 27, he has stepped up to the WorldTour with Lotto Soudal. He is set to make his debut for the team at the Tour Down Under.
Cyclingnews: How did you get into cycling?
Carl Fredrik Hagen: I was a cross-country skier and I was doing some mountain bike races in the summer with some friends. After a few races, I found out that I had more talent on the bike, so I turned totally to mountain biking when I was 22. I did that for two years. Then I went to Thor Hushovd’s Continental team. I was there for another two years before signing for another two years at Team Joker Icopal.
CN: Who was your sporting hero growing up?
CFH: Well, I didn't follow cycling when I was growing up. When I finished school at 20, I never thought that by the time I was 27 I'd be a professional cyclist in the WorldTour. When I was young, I was playing right-wing in a football team, and then I got into running before cross-country skiing. When it came to football, they put me out on the right because I liked to run but I was never that serious. I'd skip football training so I could go running in the woods instead. I guess if I had to pick one football player I really liked it was Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at Manchester United.
CN: How did you make the step up to Lotto Soudal?
CFH: This is a really big step up for me. It's a lot of new things at once and there are so many good riders here, but the important thing is that I just take it step by step.
CN: What's the biggest result you've had so far as a rider?
CFH: Maybe a stage victory in the 2017 Tour Alsace, where I was also second overall. I also won the GC at the Tour de Jura last year, and I rode the Worlds in Innsbruck last year, which was a huge experience for me.
CN: Was it difficult to make the transition from all those other sports and eventually arrive in cycling?
CFH: Of course, but I like new challenges. You have to get your head in the right place and focus on all the small details. Everything has to be taken seriously and I've had that mentality ever since I started in mountain biking. Now it's a bigger team but I'm just as focused.
The biggest learning curve came in the first six months of riding on the road and learning how to ride in the peloton. I was so scared and afraid of riding in the peloton I honestly thought that this wasn't for me and I needed to stop and do something else. Then I just took it slowly and made small steps.
CN: What style of rider are you?
CFH: I like a bit of everything, really; short climbs, long climbs, and stage races. At the Continental level you don't do that many long climbs, but I won the Queen stage in Alsace and that had 3,500m of climbing. I like tough races but I'm also interested in races like the Ardennes with their shorter, steeper climbs, too. Those efforts where you have to go hard for four, five, six minutes suit me, too. My weak point is probably my sprint. So I'm not here to do lead-outs for Caleb Ewan.
CN: What are your aims for the Tour Down Under and then for the rest of your first season?
CFH: I'm here to learn and to help the team as much as possible. In the future, I want to get results for myself but that's not my focus at the moment. I need to see what this level is like and then go on. Here I want to help Caleb win as much as possible. I'm sharing a room here with Tomasz Marczyński and his advice has been to relax, not get too stressed, and just enjoy it.