Norwegian Vegard Stake Laengen stands out in the peloton due to his 1.95 metre height, but in 2017 the 27-year-old is aiming to make his name for results, rather than appearance.
For the first time in his professional career, Laengen is riding with the security of a two-year contract after paying his bills and continuing his career on a year-by-year basis, ensuring he starts the year with total "focus on performing on the bike."
The Tour Down Under is Laegen's first race in UAE Abu Dhabi colours, and he's working for team captains Ben Swift and Diego Ulissi but that didn't stop him from animating the stage 3 breakaway and winning the combativity prize.
Laengen hasn't raced Down Under since finishing 30th at the 2010 U23 Worlds road race in Geelong, with the WorldTour race important to his early season aspirations on the cobbles. His late move on the stage into Victor Harbor suggested a productive off-season with his form and condition headed in the right direction.
"The Belgian classics are very important for me. I will do the full programme, and later the Tour de France is on my schedule, so I am hoping to perform well in these races," Laengen told Cyclingnews.
In his debut year racing in the WorldTour with IAM Cycling, Laengen made his Grand Tour debut at the Giro d'Italia and was also selected for the Vuelta a Espana. A Tour appearance would complete the set, with the opening-day time trial and stage 20 test against the clock as two stages he has circled in red.
Third in the Giro's Chianti time trial last year and second at the Norwegian nationals hinted at Laengen's potential in the time trial. The national title is again a target for Laengen, who rides his first time trial of the season at Tirreno-Adriatico, but it's the possibility of riding a home Worlds in Bergen that is his major objective.
"The world championships are important for me as a Norwegian guy, and it is not so far away from my home city," he said. "I hope I can make the selection for the Norwegian team, especially in the time trial, which I hope to perform well in."
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