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Fuglsang confident of form heading towards Ardennes Classics

Jakob Fuglsang of Astana-Premier Tech during 2021 Itzulia Basque Country
Jakob Fuglsang of Astana-Premier Tech during 2021 Itzulia Basque Country (Image credit: Getty Images)

The pieces are almost all in place for Jakob Fuglsang and the Ardennes Classics as the Astana-Premier Tech team leader completes a slow but steady build-up to April at the Itzulia Basque Country.

Fuglsang completed a notable trio of podium finish improvements in the 2019 Ardennes, starting with third in Amstel Gold, followed by a runner-up spot in Flèche Wallonne and finally his first-ever Monument victory in Liège-Bastogne-Liège.

Last year, thanks to the jumbled-up pandemic calendar racing, the Ardennes Classics clashed with Fuglsang racing the Giro d’Italia and he could not defend his title. But this spring, it will be a different story and the Danish veteran says his condition is heading in the right direction for 10 days time.

“If I look at where I’m at right now, I’m as good, if not better, than two years ago. I feel confident I will arrive in the right shape,” Fuglsang told Cyclingnews at la Itzulia.

Although he has been on the attack on several occasions in the Itzulia Basque Country, his role, he says, is one where there are no specific missions set for him.

“Ion Izagirre is our leader, and I’m here to try to get that last bit of preparation done,” he claimed. “I’m free to do whatever I feel like and test my legs whenever I want.”

Currently 14th overall, Fuglsang recognizes the pressure on Astana-Premier Tech is definitely off at the Basque Country, in any case, with two stunning stage wins already netted by Alex Aranburu on stage 2 and defending champion Ion Izagirre on stage 4.

Fuglsang warns too, that compared with other springs, the general level of performance in the peloton is “much higher than usual, here as well.” So it will be tough to predict, he thinks, what level his competitors will be at in the Ardennes.

The first winner on the ‘new’ course finish in Liège-Bastogne-Liège, back in the city centre’s Boulevard d’Avroy, Fuglsang says he needs to study the revised route of Amstel Gold compared to 2019 before deciding which of the three Classics suits him the best.

“Flèche is very difficult for me, although I’d really like to change that second place from 2019 to a win,” Fuglsang told Cyclingnews. “And then there’s Amstel Gold, which has a modified course, so I don’t know if it’ll be possible, or if it’s going to be hard enough. But either way, I’ll be trying my best in all of them.”

Fuglsang had been down to make his debut in the Tour of Flanders this year and then head straight to the Itzulia the following day. But the COVID-19 pandemic situation as well as the need to maintain team ‘bubbles’ rendered switching countries so quickly it was determined completely impractical for the Dane and the Flanders plan and it was shelved for another year.

Beyond the Ardennes, Fuglsang said earlier this year he would try for Tour de France stages and then go one better in the Olympic Games, where he secured the silver medal in 2016’s road race. But first, though, are the Ardennes.

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Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. Apart from working for Cyclingnews.com, he is also the cycling correspondent for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.