Procycling's 12 days of Christmas: 3

(Image credit: Bettini Photo / Future Publishing)

Procycling magazine’s 12 days of Christmas revisits some of the highlights from our contributors in the magazine over the last year. In March, Roger Kluge took a break from leading out Caleb Ewan in sprints to race at a home Track World Championships in Berlin, Germany, as he gears up for the Tokyo Olympics.

Roger Kluge races for Lotto Soudal and was one of Procycling’s 2020 diarists. This article was taken from Procycling magazine issue 267, April 2020.

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Normally I would stay racing with Caleb but we made a decision that I was not following Caleb to the UAE Tour because of the Track Worlds, which were being held in my hometown of Berlin this month and are also the last qualification run towards the Olympics. The team put me out to race Algarve before, instead. 

The idea in Algarve was just to have some hard racing days, quality racing, and it actually was. It was my first time there but I heard it was a nice race, good but hard, and even the flat stages had some ups and downs. In the end, we still got easily more than 2,000 climbing metres, whereas in the UAE it’s more flat during the main part of the stage.

John Degenkolb was sick so we didn’t have a captain or sprinter to work for in Portugal, so I had my own opportunities and the team put guys on my side to help me have a chance for a result. I ended up twice in the top 10. It was a new situation - it’s been many years since I’ve been sprinting for myself so I was happy. 

Elia Viviani did the same preparation for the Worlds, so it was good to see he was the same as me, and to go home having finished behind him was good self motivation to know, ‘Yes, I can do it.’ 

I know I will never win those races in a pure bunch sprint because I am just not fast enough, but it’s good to be up there with those guys. 

The Track Worlds was special. It doesn’t happen that often during your career to race at home in an event as big as that - it was probably the only chance. It was not only in my home country but the city where I live now, so I knew lots of friends and family members would come and have a look. That puts up the pressure a little bit but it’s a good feeling to be able to ride in front of your family. 

I came home from Portugal and got a little bit sick - nothing to do with coronavirus - but I had some problems with my throat and a blocked nose. I had to change my training a few days and do just one hour then look at how the body reacted, whereas I wanted to go behind a scooter or car and do more for the speed in my legs. 

On the Friday, I did race training and could see the legs were still good. I wanted to try to make the best out of the omnium - the first goal was to try and finish qualification for the Olympics, so I still needed a result… I was a little bit disappointed to finish with fourth place, it is never nice to step off the podium, but at least the qualification was safe.

Going into the Madison we knew we could win a medal again, maybe win the race again, but I also knew that the Danish were the main favourites. They were untouchable that day, like we were the last two years. Maybe with some better preparation, without the cold, we could beat them, but we were super happy to win the bronze. 

I’ll follow a road programme now until the end of the Tour. I probably won’t step on my track bike now for the next five months: there are no track races in between.

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