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Jakob Fuglsang is calling time on his elusive podium quest for grand tours.
The 35-year-old Danish rider notched a career-best sixth overall at the 2020 Giro d’Italia, but after more than a decade of trying to hit the top-3 in a grand tour, he’s hoping to pivot toward becoming a stage-hunter.
Speaking to Danish television, Fuglsang said he’s ready to shift gears going into 2021.
“If it is up to me, I will not race for the GC in grand tours in the future,” he told TV2 Sport. “Of course, it would be cool to be on a grand tour podium, but anything that is outside the podium isn’t so interesting to me anymore.”
Fuglsang, whose contract ends in 2021, wants to pivot toward races he knows he can win. The Dane won Liège-Bastogne-Liège in 2019, and Il Lombardia in 2020. And he hopes to improve on his silver medal in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games in Tokyo, with the men’s road race rescheduled for July due to coronavirus.
Despite winning the Critérium du Dauphiné twice, and packing strong time trialing skills along with his confirmed climbing chops, Fuglsang only hit the top-10 twice in 15 career grand tour starts.
“I know I push myself to sixth in the Giro or the Tour de France, but to hit the podium, I have to be 100 percent,” Fuglsang said. “And I think my team has to be stronger.”
Fuglsang’s comments come ahead of a team training camp in January, where his final schedule and the team’s larger ambitions will be mapped out. Fuglsang indicated he wants to focus on one-day classics, individual stages, and the Tokyo Olympic Games.
Fuglsang, who joined Astana in 2013, still might find himself with some GC responsibilities, however.
Without López, the team doesn’t really count on many other legitimate GC options. Ion Izagirre can perform well in one-week stage races, but has struggled to match the success in three-week grand tours. Rising Russian talent Alexsandr Vlasov, 24, who rode to 11th in the 2020 Vuelta a España, is expected to see an enhanced leadership role in 2021.
Fuglsang also admitted Astana is out-gunned against stronger teams, such as Ineos Grenadiers and Jumbo-Visma, when it comes to preparing and racing the grand tours.
“The teams that target the grand tours are extremely well-organized for that task, and they are very strong on many fronts,” he said. “And maybe a little stronger than Astana is right now. Therefore, in the future, if it is up to me, I will try to focus more on winning stages, mountain jerseys, or something like that.”