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Kasper Asgreen: ‘Jumbo-Visma will have the responsibility of controlling the classics’

The Dane was the sensation of the 2021 classics season, but admits things will be more complicated as he returns to E3 Saxo Bank Classic and Tour of Flanders.

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Just like everyone else, Kasper Asgreen watched in awe as Jumbo-Visma bulldozed across the early part of 2022.

The Dane says now the classics shoe is on the other foot, and insists it will be Jumbo-Visma, not Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl, which will have to take responsibility across the Flemish classics.

“You can see how well Jumbo-Visma is going now and how they’ve strengthened their classics team,” Asgreen said Thursday. “We have a lot of respect for that, and now they will be in a position that we’ve been in the past few years. They will end up with a lot of the work and might have to be pulling alone in Flanders before the final starts.

“With the strength they have right now, we cannot match it,” he said in a media call. “It’s their job now. They will have more responsibility in controlling the race now.

“The main pressure falls to Jumbo-Visma, with the way they’ve been riding and the strength they have. It’s really impressive. That strength comes with a certain responsibility, and that responsibility falls on them this year.”

Asgreen headlines a Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl heading into the spring classics with a different vibe and in an unfamiliar place in the peloton.

Some of the chest-pounding bravado is gone, and many are quick to point out that the Belgian “Wolfpack” has “only” won one of the early season classics so far on the calendar, with Fabio Jakobsen taking the flowers at Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne.

“It’s annoying we don’t win more, but even the best riders, you lose more than you win,” he said. “It’s difficult that we haven’t won anything yet and we’d like to. But that just gives us the motivation to keep on fighting and to try to improve. We’ve also seen that Jumbo-Visma can be beaten. It’s not impossible and we will try to do that.”

Much has been made in the Belgian media about Quick-Step missing out so far in the early cobbled classics, such as Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. Quick-Step is still winning races, especially in the bunch sprints with Jakobsen and Mark Cavendish, but its classics team so far isn’t its usually dominating self.

“We haven’t been as dominating as Jumbo or UAE have been in the first months of the year,” Asgreen said. “At the same time, we are also the second most-winning team so far. I don’t think we’re doing so bad to be honest. The strength in the team might be a little less than Jumbo or UAE, but I think the guys are going to be there, and we will do our best like we always do.”

That’s fine with Asgreen, who lines up Friday as the defending champion at E3 Saxo Bank Classic.

“I think I am in a good place,” he said. “I am confident going into the classics. I am satisfied with my condition and I have the same feelings and I am pushing similar numbers as before.”

More pressure under the spotlight

With Quick-Step a bit underwhelming so far in 2022 in the classics, Asgreen admits it’s going to be more challenging for him to play his tactical card.

Last year at E3 Saxo Bank Classic, his solo victory was in part powered by the fact that he had two Quick-Step teammates hovering in the chase group, ready to counter if and when he was reeled in.

“I will have to change my tactics compared to last year,” he said. “Last year, I benefitted a lot from having two teammates chasing behind me, and the guys knew as soon as they closed me down, we had another guy who was going to attack.

“I hope we have the same as we did last year and I can be up there, and I also hope my teammates will be up there,” Asgreen said. “I know I cannot go alone with 60-65km when Jumbo can use one of their helpers or co-leaders to close me down, and then he goes.

“I have to get them more ‘mano-a-mano’ like I did in Flanders,” he said. “When you’re one-on-one it’s a bit easier to manage. That was the trick for me last year.”

His even bigger victory at Tour of Flanders barely a week later against Mathieu van der Poel saw him earn leadership duties to mark the right wheels and he packed the firepower to go toe-to-toe with the Dutch superstar, and then beat him in a drag race to the line in a two-up sprint.

With such riders as Tim Declercq and Yves Lampaert sidelined with health issues, and Julian Alaphilippe steering clear of the Flemish classics in favor of the Ardennes, more pressure will fall on Asgreen.

And with his big classics successes last year, he knows he’s going to be a marked man.

“We might have to be a bit more defensive on the steeper, longer climbs,” he said. “More riders are watching me, and there is a lot more focus on me, and it will be more difficult to get a gap. In the end, you just have to take that as a compliment. I managed it last year at Flanders, and I will have to try to do the same this year.”

Asgreen is quietly confident he will have the horsepower in the Belgian classics to pull off, or at least come close to, repeating his Harelbeke-Flanders double from 2021.