Jakob Fuglsang was emotional for several different reasons after winning the hilly fifth stage at Tirreno-Adriatico in Recanati.
The Danish rider pointed to the sky as he crossed the finish line, remembering his former teammate Michele Scarponi who won Tirreno-Adriatico ten years ago and was tragically killed in 2017. Fuglsang was also happy to have continued Astana’s winning streak and take a win himself after finishing second at last week’s Strade Bianche.
“Obviously this win had to be for him,” Fuglsang said of Scarponi, knowing that Monday’s stage finishes in Jesi, just a few kilometres from the Italian's birthplace in Filottrano.
“I was hoping to win to remember Michele yesterday, and today my motivation was even higher. I saw his wife at start and know that is young sons are coming to the finish tomorrow. We’re in his area and ten years ago he won Tirreno-Adriatico.
"He was always good here. Fans on the side of road were cheering for Michele and for us. He’s still missed and still in our thoughts, he was such a good guy.”
Win number 19 for Astana
With Ion Izagirre winning the final stage at Paris-Nice and Fuglsang giving Astana their second consecutive stage victory at Tirreno-Adriatico, the Kazakh team has now won 19 races in the opening two months of the season. That puts them above the Deceuninck-Quick Step winning machine, who remain on ‘just’ 17 victories.
Fuglsang was quizzed about what Astana have done or are doing to be able to win so much. so often.
“It’s never easy to win even if it looks it,” he pointed out.
"When you all get stronger you get one per cent extra and push that little bit harder. It's not 19 victories from two guys but 19 from eight or nine different guys. That is really the strength of the team and that only comes because we work as a team.
“We’re riding the wave – perhaps we can win all season. Two year ago we didn’t have a single win at this point in the season, that shows how things change.”
Fuglsang revealed that Astana team manager Alexander Vinokourov did not push the riders to be on form early in the season – the victories came spontaneously, one inspiring another.
“Not only do we have the form to win, we’ve also good lucky and had the courage to try,” he said.
“It’s easier when you win and so then you perhaps take a second chance to try win again, then success comes even easier. There’s also a lot of hard work behind the scenes from everyone in team so we can deliver. Success takes good staff, good materials and good planning too.”
Fuglsang has raced at WorldTour level since 2009 but has only won 19 times, racking up more placings and suffering more defeat and disappointment than success. He was gutted to lose Strade Bianche to Julian Alaphilippe and knows his poor sprint finish and Grand Tour ambitions limits his chances of winning races and stages.
“Now and then I get a win, and then I get another five second places,” he joked.
“But if I have to win, I have to win this way. Most of my wins have come this way, going the distance and pushing myself, not waiting until the sprint. This is my way of doing it and that is also why I go from a distance and not wait until the last moment.”
Fuglsang’s solo victory lifted him to third in the overall classification at Tirreno-Adriatico. He is 35 seconds down on Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) and ten seconds behind Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma). The Slovenian is by far the better time trialist and the favourite to win this year’s Tirreno-Adriatico but Fuglsang hopes to make up for Astana’s poor opening team time trial and finish on the final podium.
"Unfortunately the classification went out of the window after our TTT but we began thinking about trying to win stages,” Fuglsang explained.
“We did it yesterday with Lutsenko and then today I had motivation from yesterday's win. Hopefully we can keep thing rolling. I’ll still have to do a super TT to keep a podium spot. Dumoulin is behind me [1:55 behind Yates] but I’ll fight for it.”