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SAINT-AMAND-MONTROND, France (VN) — A little over half way through his first Tour de France as a team leader, Astana’s Jakob Fuglsang appears to be on the brink of a true breakout performance.
After a bumpy opening week that saw him lose multiple teammates to crashes and big time in the stage 4 team time trial, the 28-year old Dane started Friday 12th overall, but his jump into the front group in the day’s crosswind-fractured stage propelled him halfway up the GC. He now sits in sixth place, 4:39 behind race leader Chris Froome (Sky). If Fuglsang can maintain his form through the Alpine stages ahead, his first grand tour top 10 should be within reach — a prize, he told VeloNews on Friday morning, that would represent his biggest ever career achievement.
Fuglsang made an impression on Sunday, bouncing back from a rough day on the slopes below Ax 3 Domaines with a breakaway bid for the win in the Tour’s final Pyrénéan stage. Though he could not hold off breakaway companion Daniel Martin (Garmin-Sharp) in the race’s finale, he said even coming as close as he did was the highlight of his Tour.
“Of course I’m very happy with stage 9. The way that I was riding there, that I was still able to go away in the final and had the chance to go for the stage win,” said Fuglsang. “It would have been nice to take the stage win also, but — no it’s been ok.”
Even before the events of Friday’s stage to Saint Amand Montrond so dramatically boosted his GC hopes, Fuglsang said he felt a top-10 finish was a realistic goal.
“There’s been some hectic days,” he said. “There’s been good days and bad days, but I’ve avoided the really bad day so far. [Stage 8] was not super. I think I dehydrated a little bit in the final and lost a little time. But I’m still up there, still able to get into the top 10. That’s my goal, to get into the top 10.”
His chances will hinge on producing consistent results on the mountain stages ahead and avoiding mistakes of the kind that may have cost him more than two-and-a-half minutes in stage 8. Two days ahead of his next big test, the 21-kilometer ascent of the massive Mont Ventoux, Fuglsang acknowledged that, in a three-week race, some things are out of the riders’ control.
“In the end, there’s not so much you can do about it [when things go wrong],” he said. “You can try to be 100 percent and try to recover and try to do as you always do, but if you have bad legs, you have bad legs. There’s not so much to do about it.”
Still, he hinted that he does not intend to settle for simple consistency, especially when the road pitches steeply up the bald slopes of Ventoux on Bastille Day.
“Normally the long stages suit me well,” he said, “so I’m pretty optimistic and hoping for the best, including the possibility to do something good already there.”