MONTLUÇON, France (VN) – The youngest rider in the Paris-Nice field, 20-year-old Finn Fisher-Black is making just his second appearance at WorldTour level.
The New Zealander spoke to VeloNews before the race’s wind-hit second stage to Orléans and then again following his time trial into Montluçon, revealing the difficulties he’s experienced in stepping up into one of the biggest races on the calendar, what it’s like having Tadej Pogačar as a teammate and where he sees his future as a racer.
VeloNews: Finn, it was a pretty hectic start to Paris-Nice yesterday, with the crosswinds and a frantic pace ending with Jumbo-Visma’s 1-2-3. How did you get on?
Finn Fisher-Black: It was a grippy day. I’m just finding my feet. It’s my first big race of the year. It’s good to be back in the bunch, but it’s a really tough race to start at. I think each day I’ll get better as I’ll learn as we go and see where I can help the guys.
VN: What condition are you in at the moment?
Finn Fisher-Black: I’m definitely coming into form. I had a bit of a rough start to the year. I was a little bit sick a couple of weeks ago – not COVID thankfully – and that threw me off a little bit, but I went home and trained for a week and I’m kind of coming into form now. Hopefully, I’ll see the benefit of that later on in this race.
VN: What are the goals in this race specifically? Is it just all about learning? Are you here to help in some way?
Finn Fisher-Black: There’s a big emphasis on learning, but also just to help as much as I can especially in the mountains, to see where I am in terms of the field here. I’m still trying to figure out my future, working out what type of rider I am and where that takes me. As a first step, we’re going to see later in the week how much I can help the guys in the mountains.
VN: In terms of the season as a whole, do you have specific goals that you want to achieve or races you want to start?
Finn Fisher-Black: I’ll mainly race a lot of like tours like this, week-long events. I’m not going to do any grand tours and not too many big classics. There’s a big focus on the week-long tours, which are the races that I want to grow into as a rider.
VN: In terms of the future, have you got ambitions to ride the grand tours and obviously do well in the grand tour? Looking at your results, that’s kind of what we’re expecting of you.
Finn Fisher-Black: That’s definitely the dream. The reason I’m riding the bike is definitely the Tour de France. That’s where I want to be and that’s the kind of rider I want to develop into. That’s why I’m starting in these smaller week-long tours, which are still big races. Hopefully, through developing in races like these one day I’ll be at the Tour.
VN: How was that last kicker in the time trial into the finish? It looked pretty brutal…
Finn Fisher-Black: It was, although to be honest I kind of blanked it out and can’t say much about it. I felt like I did a decent ride, but my legs aren’t in the best shape yet, especially after the last three days we’ve had, fighting for position, racing in the crosswinds. It’s been really hard, but every day I feel like I’m doing a bit better.
VN: To what extent do you notice the step up when you’re at a WorldTour race?
Finn Fisher-Black: You realize very quickly that it’s a big step up. I’d got used to being competitive in the Pro-level races last season, but when you first come into a race like Paris-Nice it’s all about learning. The good thing is that I can think back to when I felt the same way about Pro-level races, so I know that if I keep working and learning I will be able to get competitive in these races too.
VN: The UAE team are putting a strong emphasis on young riders. Is that one of the reasons that attracted you to them?
Finn Fisher-Black: It was one of the two principal reasons, the fact that they’re making a big effort to bring young riders through along with the fact that it’s such an international team. Those were the factors that swayed it for me. It’s been a great experience so far. At this race, I’ve had so much support and advice from the more experienced riders on the team as well and that’s really helped me get to grips with the racing here.
VN: In Tadej Pogačar you’ve got the best rider in the world on the team. What’s it like having him as a teammate?
Finn Fisher-Black: Tadej’s absolutely phenomenal, a super laidback guy. There’s always something that you can learn from him. One of the good things that he’s done has been to lift the performance level of the whole team. It used to be that he would take most of the team’s wins, but now other riders have seen what he can do and that’s given them the confidence to win as well.
VN: After this time trial, Paris-Nice is heading for the hills. What are your hopes for the final four days?
Finn Fisher-Black: I’m hoping that I might get the chance to get into a break. There’s lots of climbing on the stages to come and that should suit me more if I’ve got the legs for it. If not, I’ll still make the most of the experience, which I’m sure will improve me as a rider.