Fredrik Kessiakoff looks to have put his career back on track after a disappointing 18 month period. The Swedish rider finished 10th on stage 9 of the Vuelta and now sits 4th overall, just 18 seconds down on the race lead.
It’s a far cry from the Kessiakoff who was released by Garmin-Transitions at the end of the 2010, and the rider who was omitted from Astana’s Tour de France line up at the last minute.
“It’s been a steady Vuelta so far and I’m happy with that. That final climb on stage 9 was very tough and so was the day before. I’ve not been sure about my legs but in the end I was able to manage a solid effort and not lose too much time,” he told Cyclingnews.
A strong climber Kessiakoff rode a tactically astute race, biding his time in the leading group instead of attacking into the headwind as the likes of Michele Scarponi and Nicholas Roche did.
“You saw that when Scarponi went that there were a lot of attacks and people wanted to get away but it all kept coming back because of the wind on the climb. I just decided to stay put in the wheels and not do anything stupid. If you look at it now Scarponi wasn’t brilliant in the end and he lost a lot of time. Sure I lost some time but it’s just seconds.”
Kessiakoff, a former mountain biker, came to the fore after a strong 2009 season with Fuji-Servetto in what was his first full season on the road. However a crash at the start of 2010 severely hindered his first year with Garmin and when it came to mid-August he had already hung up his wheels for the year and began preparing for 2011. With no results and the collaboration between Garmin and Cervelo, he found himself without a team until Astana came in with an unlikely two-year deal.
Despite those hard times Kessiakoff is only looking on the positive side.
“It’s all been worth it. I don’t need to prove a point to anybody because I know what I can achieve and I’ve known that I can do this and I’ve always believed in myself. Of course it’s frustrating when you know that you have form but you can’t show it. Astana had faith in me though and they gave me a chance and a contract despite the problems I had last year and it’s great to be back on track again.”
With such a strong first week behind him Kessiakoff has assumed the role of team leader at Astana – despite the fact that he came into the race as the joint second GC rider on the team behind Andrey Kashechkin and level with Robert Kiserlovski. For now the Swede isn’t talking about GC possibilities, although a top 15 place is a realistic aim.
“There’s no guarantee that I’ll be this good all the way to Madrid but at least for now I’ve had a good start and I’m truly happy and enjoying the moment,” he told Cyclingnews.
“I’m not setting any big goals for Madrid. It’s so easy to have them smashed if you have a bad day. At the moment I’m just taking it day by day and the team accepts that that’s how I want to take things. Either way I’ll come to Madrid with a few nice experiences. This is a new experience for me.”