The 36-year-old, who moves on after nine years at the Kazakhstani squad, suffered at the Tokyo Olympics with a virus, broken his collarbone and shoulder blade at the Benelux Tour, and went to the Tour de France suffering side effects from his second COVID-19 vaccine shot.
Next summer, a year on from the Tour that saw him pull out on the final day, the race heads to Denmark for the Grand Départ. Fuglsang, a Dane born in Geneva, said that making the Tour, which kicks off with three stages on home ground, is set to be his major goal of the season.
"Of course, one of my goals is that I would really love to take part in the Tour de France starting in Denmark," Fuglsang told Cyclingnews at Israel Start-Up Nation's 'homecoming' camp in Tel Aviv.
"That would be something special for all the Danish riders and I would love to get that opportunity. I'm quite relaxed about that and quite open to the team's ideas and ambitions for the Grand Tours."
Fuglsang, who finished seventh at the 2013 Tour, and who also has a sixth place at the Giro d'Italia to his name, said, however, that competing for the general classification at Grand Tours is not on his radar anymore.
"If the team wants it, I will do GC, but for me personally I think you have so many other opportunities if you don't do GC," he said. "I still think for me as a rider I have a good chance to win one-week stage races, but I think three weeks is probably a little more difficult and not as realistic.
"First of all, I would like to do a good Paris-Nice or Tirreno-Adriatico and then have a good Classics campaign but from then on the Tour de France will be a goal. I would rather go for a repeat win at the Critérium du Dauphiné or finally get the Tour de Suisse under the belt and then go for stages or the mountains jersey in the Tour or in other Grand Tours."
Away from stage racing – Fuglsang has won two editions of the Dauphiné and has 14 top-10 finishes other WorldTour one-week races – he also has a strong Classics palmarès, having won Liège-Bastogne-Liège and Il Lombardia in recent years, as well as grabbing podiums at Strade Bianche, Amstel Gold Race, and La Flèche Wallonne.
The cobbled Classics, however, haven't been in Fuglsang's ambitions in the past, having raced a single Tour of Flanders (he finished 25th in 2016) and no editions of Paris-Roubaix – despite riding to second place on the memorable cobbled stage at the 2014 Tour.
That might change in 2022, though, with Fuglsang admitting that he would be interested in returning to Flanders, and even admitting that he's interested in trying Paris-Roubaix before he retires.
"We still have to discuss the calendar in the next days and have a look at things but I would like to go for Flanders again," Fuglsang said. "I asked every year in Astana since I did my only Flanders in 2016. I've always wanted to go back and try again but they didn't really let me.
"I haven't seen the calendar but I'm wondering with Roubaix being moved and the Classics being a bit different maybe it opens up the opportunity to go for Flanders and Amstel before Flèche and Liège.
"I would like to, and Roubaix is also a race I would love to do minimum once or twice in my career. I think it's a race you should try to do at least once but maybe not in the upcoming season. I was happy that I wasn't there [this year], but if you look back at the 2014 Tour de France when Boom won and Nibali was in yellow, I took second place. So maybe it wouldn't be so bad if it was wet."
Premier Tech links and a disappointing 2021
Fuglsang heads to ISN for a fresh start, moving across from Astana with teammate Hugo Houle and directeur sportif Steve Bauer. The trio have long been rumoured to be making the switch along with Jean Bélanger's Premier Tech, though ISN boss Sylvan Adams insisted last week that nothing had yet been finalised on that front.
Fuglsang himself said that he might have ended up at a different team had Bélanger agreed a sponsorship deal elsewhere. The company had been linked with Qhubeka NextHash and was close to finalising a deal with BikeExchange before negotiations stalled.
"At one point in the year, I had talks with Jean from Premier Tech and agreed with him that I would stick with him wherever he would go so let's say if he would've gone with BikeExchange then I would probably have ended up there," Fuglsang said.
"That's probably also why we're a group. I can't tell you if it was Premier Tech coming in here or if Sylvan took the whole group, but I think it's more like Sylvan said 'Ok, I can use these guys and I will be happy to have them join the team'. Israel was one of the teams I talked to already back in August and they wanted to get me over. I had to decide what to do and it has ended up like this and I'm super happy about it."
However the sponsorship situation resolves itself, Fuglsang is set at ISN and will head into 2022 looking to put a troubled 2021 behind him. Third place at the Tour de Suisse aside, he spent much of the summer waylaid by various maladies before his season came to an abrupt end with a crash at the Benelux Tour.
"All in all, it's been a disappointing year," he said. "I tried to do a different approach. I agreed with Astana to do that, to start out easier and be ready for the Classics but it turned out I just missed a bit for the Classics.
"Then I had a really good Tour de Suisse with third place and that was one of my goals but of course with the Tour de France – the period before and after the Tour de Suisse I had my vaccination the month before and after I had my second shot. I believe that one ruined my Tour de France.
"I will take the vaccine no matter what," he noted. "But maybe I would've timed it a bit differently. I already got the first shot after my first block of racing. Then we went to Tenerife training camp and all the tests we did like lactate – that was super-high compared to normal. In training maybe I never felt that I was on top of things but I didn't feel bad. I could still train, and I still came to Suisse going strong.
"After the second shot I had the same feeling and it seemed like I missed 10 per cent on top. I think it was more a question of the vaccine doing its work. It wasn't the perfect timing."
In July, Fuglsang's Tour ended early with food poisoning which carried through to the Olympic Games road race a week later. Back in Rio he had picked up a silver medal, and he finished a solid 12th in August, but for Fuglsang the result only highlighted what might have been.
"I was so damaged going into the Olympics that I was in bed almost all the time there. I luckily managed to get it together one day before the race and pulled out a surprising performance for me and for everybody who saw what I went through.
"But it wasn't what I hoped for. Knowing afterwards the performance I pulled out given the days I had coming into it I was kind of disappointed because I could have been where I wanted to be and chase that gold medal."
Fuglsang will turn 37 at the end of next March, and with his three-year deal taking him through to his 39th year, it's not unreasonable to be thinking about whether this is his final contract in the pro peloton.
He said that he's aiming to make it to the next Olympics in Paris in 2024, even if the parcours is unlikely to be suited to his riding style. After that, it's a case of analysing the lay of the land and deciding what to do. For now, anyway, he's certainly not thinking about the end.
"I would love to finish with the Olympics in Paris in three years," he said. "I know it will be difficult with all the strong Danish guys coming up and maybe the parcours there will not suit me as a rider, but apart from that I have that as a goal for me and I think when we get closer, I'll decide what to do.
"For now, I don't feel tired of racing, and I don't feel 36. I feel like I can go on for a long time. I'm happy racing and riding my bike and I'm super happy also to have a long contract, that they trust me because it might not be the obvious thing to do for a team to give a 36-year-old a three-year contract.
"But that gives me peace that might be good for delivering results all the way through. For me, it's not just about me winning but also coming to a team that's successful and being part of that."
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