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Unlikely rookie: Fuglsang’s Flanders experiment

GC rider Jakob Fuglsang looks out of place at Tour of Flanders, but the Danish climber says he just wants to try something new.

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GENT, Belgium (VN) — Don’t blame skinny GC rider Jakob Fuglsang if he feels a bit out of place Sunday at the start of Ronde van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders) among the brawny cobble-bashers.

Astana’s Danish climber is an unlikely Flanders rookie in what’s a season of experimentation.

“I wanted to try something new. If you never try, you never know if it suits you,” Fulgsang told VeloNews. “The cobbles aren’t so difficult, it’s the big fight for position that is the big difference. Guys here are more willing to risk everything, because it’s all or nothing in a one-day race.”

The 31-year-old, seventh in the 2013 Tour de France, has raced nine major classics in his career, but they were either Giro di Lombardia or Liège-Bastogne-Liège, so he’s looking forward to seeing how he will do over the bergs and the pavé.

“It’s going to be difficult for me in Flanders,” he admitted. “I did Strade Bianche for the first time [he was 11th]. I was able to be close to the front. I missed a little bit, but I hope I can be there on Sunday. Otherwise, I will help the team. Lars Boom is showing good condition.”

More “new” is on the horizon. This year, he’ll race the Giro d’Italia for the first time as well, where he will go as co-captain with Vincenzo Nibali. What’s next, Paris-Roubaix?

“Roubaix, no?! For now, it’s only for Flanders to try it. Roubaix and Flanders, these are races that you need to try at some time in your professional career.”

“Riders can help make it safer”

Fulgsang is no stranger to the dangers of racing’s ebb and flow on the open roads. Last year, he was knocked off his bike at the Tour de France.

In light of the tragic death of Antoine Demoitié after being struck by a motorbike during Gent-Wevelgem, Fuglsang said riders also have a responsibility during the race.

“As riders, we can also help to make it safer, and to try to avoid these accidents,” Fulgsang said. “The motorcycle riders pass the way they do because they do not get left any space by the riders.”

Fuglsang said an established protocol should be set to allow race vehicles to pass the peloton — he suggests motorcycles or cars should only pass on the left side — and that riders should give way when they roll through.

“If there is a clear set of rules, then everyone can understand it,” he said. “It’s dangerous enough as it is. Guys are losing their lives on the road. It’s a sport; you’re not supposed to risk your life doing this job. There should be some action. The UCI should react immediately, and they should ask the riders for suggestions on our point of view. Action needs to be taken. It’s already too late. One guy lost his life because of it.”