Lutsenko sets sights on Tour de France podium

LA PLAGNE FRANCE JUNE 05 Alexey Lutsenko of Kazahkstan and Team Astana Premier Tech yellow leader jersey at arrival during the 73rd Critrium du Dauphin 2021 Stage 7 a 1715km stage from SaintMartinLeVinoux to La Plagne 2072m UCIworldtour Dauphin dauphine on June 05 2021 in La Plagne France Photo by Bas CzerwinskiGetty Images
Alexey Lutsenko (Astana Qazaqstan) (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Alexey Lutsenko firmly believes that he can aim for the Tour de France podium in 2022 after the Astana Qazaqstan leader finished a credible but surprising seventh in this year’s race.

The 29-year-old, who recently signed a three-year contract extension at the Kazakh team, will also target the Ardennes Classics and the Tour of Flanders next season. 

"We’re now at a training camp in Altea, Spain and in the new year we’ll have another camp and that will be at altitude in Teide. I’ll start my season in Europe next year, with the Tour of Provence and then Ruta del Sol in Andalucia," Lutsenko told the media during a recent Zoom call. 

"After that I’ll prepare for the Ardennes Classics, and maybe I’ll do the Tour of Flanders. I’ll take a break and then do the Critérium du Dauphiné and then the Tour de France."

This season Lutsenko had a slow start to the campaign but his level significantly improved at the Dauphiné, where he won the individual time trial to Roche-La-Moliere before finishing second overall to Richie Porte (Ineos Grenadiers). 

At the Tour, Lutsenko was consistently present in the first group in in the mountains, and while several top-10 contenders crashed out, the Astana leader remained resolute to pick up his first ever top-10 finish in a three-week race.

While the opposition will be just as tough in 2022, or even tougher assuming Egan Bernal returns and fewer contenders crash out of contention, Lutsenko firmly believes that a shot at the top-three is possible. 

"It’s not going to be easy but top three in the Tour de France is a goal for me and the team," he said.

"This year with my seventh in the Tour I proved that I can be in the mix with the best riders. Thanks to the team and staff I did an amazing job this year, so I think that we’ll try and do everything possible in the next years to reach this goal. Nothing is impossible and it’s a really big goal for the next years."

Few riders tend to develop into Grand Tour riders at the age of 29 [ed – he was 28 during the Tour] but Lutsenko puts his improvement down to several key factors. 

"I had to change a lot to be Grand Tour GC rider. I took it step by step, first by being competitive in the week-long races. Then we decided to work towards Grand Tours. We changed a lot in our preparation, it’s completely different for a lot of things, like eating. There are a lot of things to change if you want to be a Grand Tour rider.

“I had some good results in other races, like the cobbled Classics but I think that I have good room to improve in the mountains and the longer races. I can be competitive there and year by year I feel like I’m getting better at climbing, and on the longer climbs too.”

Regardless of where he finishes in the Tour de France, it’s more than likely that Lutsenko will complete his racing career at Astana. He signed for the team as a neo-pro in 2013 and has spent his entire career at the squad. A new three-year contract followed after his Tour de France performance and for a number of reasons it’s likely that Lutsenko will remain on the team for the duration of his time in the WorldTour.

"I started my professional career at Astana and it’s true that I’m still here. I decided to extend my contract here for the next three years because the team really trust in me and because I feel good," he said.

"I get the position of the leader here and I’m free to choose the calendar and the races that I want. I feel the team’s trust and their support. It’s also a Kazakh team and I’m Kazakh, and that’s important to me. Maybe I can also share my experience with the young Kazakh riders in the team."

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