Kasper Asgreen on Paris-Roubaix: ‘To beat Van der Poel and Van Aert you have to out-maneuver them’
The Dane is still a bit hobbled from his 2022 Tour de Suisse crash, but he believes in his chances at Paris-Roubaix.
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KRUISEM, Belgium (VN) — For Kasper Asgreen and his Soudal Quick-Step teammates, this year’s classics campaign has been about riding smarter and not harder.
The Belgian squad was once the dominant force in the classics, but it has ceded that position to Jumbo-Visma in recent years, with Wout van Aert rising to the status of classics top dog alongside his long-time rival Mathieu van der Poel, with a guest appearance from Tour of Flanders winner Tadej Pogačar.
Where it was once able to bully other teams with its strength and numbers, the team is having to think differently about its race tactics as it tries to cope with riders who are a clear level above everyone else.
“It changes that we need to anticipate now. If you can’t follow the top guys, you need to try to out-maneuver them,” Asgreen told VeloNews on Thursday. “We tried that and I think it went as good as it could on Sunday [at Flanders]. In the previous races, we didn’t succeed but on Sunday we did the best possible race we could.
“If Tadej and Van der Poel can come back from chasing early on in the race and still make an attack and close a three-minute gap and pass us and go alone to the finish, then you just have to say chapeau. They did a really strong race. I think it was the way to try to beat them, it gave them a hard day also.”
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This weekend’s Paris-Roubaix perhaps provides one of the best opportunities for Asgreen and his teammates to get one over on Van Aert and Van der Poel.
The “Hell of the North” is unpredictable and allows for a wider range of tactics to play out.
Asgreen’s palmarès at Paris-Roubaix has not been as good as it has at the Tour of Flanders, which he won in 2021, but he believes that the flatter parcours — and the power required to ride it — will play better into his hands in his current form than the short, sharp accelerations required at Flanders.
“Roubaix is a little bit different because you don’t have those insanely high peak power numbers like you do on the climbs in Flanders. It’s a bit more pressure on the legs over a very long time, which I think for me right now is an advantage. I can do that,” he said. “I think I showed that last week so I’m expecting a good race on Sunday, and we try to give them a run for their money again.
“You see winners from the morning breakaway, you’ve seen editions where the selection is done on Gruson or Carrefour de l’Arbre, very late in the race. It’s a race that has a lot of different scenarios that you can win from.”
Getting back to base
For Asgreen, his seventh place at last weekend’s Tour of Flanders was a sign that things are moving in the right direction for him.
The Danish rider has been working to find his form after injuring his knee in a brutal crash at the Tour de Suisse last June.
“It’s been a longer way back from my crash last year in Suisse than I think the coaches and the team doctors expected. It’s just reaching that shape has taken a lot longer than I think anybody expected it to. I still have some buildup to do to come back to my full potential,” Asgreen said.
While Asgreen did initially return to racing relatively soon after his crash last summer, it quickly became apparent that the injury he had picked up was far more serious than initially expected.
He pulled out of the Tour de France before stage 9 and ultimately didn’t race again for the remainder of the season. By the time he started training again, he had been off the bike for several months, giving him a lot of work to do to return to his base fitness.
“First of all, it was getting my knee healthy again, which was cleared last year in October. You start training again, but at that point, I had already three or four months without training. It’s not like the usual off-season where you are training again after three or four weeks. It was three or four months I had to catch up on,” he said.
“I restarted my training at the end of October, beginning of November, like I would normally do, but I started with a much bigger gap so it took a lot longer and I could also not concentrate fully on just building the shape because there was still a lot of rehabilitation to do because I lost a lot of muscle mass on the left leg and that still had to be built up, so it was kind of a transition over the winter going from rehabilitation training to building up the shape. I think we managed it the best we could, it just took a lot longer.”
Despite the long road to recovery, Asgreen is confident that he can be the rider he was prior to that Suisse crash again.
“100 percent, it’s getting better and better every week, so I have never doubted that I was going to get back,” Asgreen said. “In the end, you would like it to go faster, but I think it is like that for any cyclist.
“You’re a competitive person and you would like to just win everything, but you can’t rush nature so I just kept my head down and focused on working on it as hard as I possibly could and doing everything I could do to get back as soon as possible. That kept me more than occupied.”