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There’s no denying the peloton is faster and sleeker, and shows no signs of slowing down.
Speaking to VeloNews, Fuglsang said he packs more power that at any point of his career, and he’s not even close to the yellow jersey at the Tour de France.
“When I was seventh in Tour de France in 2013, if I had the numbers I have now back then, I would have won the Tour,” Fuglsang told VeloNews. “We all say the same thing for the guys who have been around for a while, ‘I have my best numbers ever’ — today the whole level is so much higher.”
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So what’s happening?
Fuglsang said it’s a combination of factors, with younger riders entering the teams using the latest and greatest in technology, nutrition, medicine, and equipment to maximize performance.
“The sport has become even more professional and even more ways of measuring everything, and it’s even more scientific even it was 10 years ago,” Fuglsang said. “I have seen a lot of changes in my career and in my sport.
“The level that is there from the beginning of the season and in every single race is so high,” he said. “You have to be 100 percent at every race if you want to be at the front. Even at the Tour Down Under, the guys there are flying. Once it was a race to get some kilometers in.”
Fuglsang, who moved to ISN after nine seasons at Astana, said the overall level of the peloton has improved in the 13 seasons he’s been racing. Teams put more focus on every race, fielding squads to win from February to October. More attention is paid to every aspect of training and racing, and big names are racing to win every time they line up.
“Everything counts so much more now,” he said. “Now you need the newest, the lightest, the best TT bike, the most aero wheels if you want to win. It’s because the competition is so close, much closer than it used to be.”
Changing focus: ‘I do not think I will win a grand tour’
His move to Israel Start-Up Nation will see Fuglsang take a different role on the team.
He will be 37 in March, and will slot into a mentor role as well as target specific races or stages. He’s turned the page on battling for a top-10 in a grand tour.
“I have to be realistic and see the opportunities that are there if you do not do GC,” he said. “I had my top-10s in the Giro, the Tour, and the Vuelta. I know I can do it. I need to be on top of my game, but I can do it.
“I do not think I will win a grand tour,” he said. “For that reason, it will be nicer for me to go for other goals that are there at the Tour de France, a little bit like Alaphilippe. It’s more interesting to go for these kinds of goals than just hanging on, hanging on, hanging on, trying to get a top-10.”
Is that swashbuckling style of racing more engaging?
“It is more fun,” Fuglsang said. “It’s also to some extent less dangerous when you do not have to be every single day and take the risk to be in the front every day. By not having to be there every day, you can race more freely. And it can actually turn out to be that you might be there anyway and you can go for GC. But the idea is to not have to fight like a maniac to be at the front every day ‘on paper’ in the not decisive stages.”
So what about winning that Tour years ago if he had the power he brings today?
Fuglsang laughed, and added the modifier, “Yes, but only if the rest of the guys had kept their numbers from back then, yes … !”