As­tana’s Dane on his start in moun­tain bik­ing and how fa­ther­hood changed him

Procycling - - PROLOGUE -

When I was 12, I started moun­tain bik­ing.

My brother is two years older than me so I would join him and his friends. It was just fun to go af­ter school to ride in the for­est. Back then, in 1998, moun­tain bik­ing was still com­ing up as a sport and was still pop­u­lar. It was the cool thing to do.

We’d just go out in the for­est to tum­ble around a bit.

My brother went on un­til he fin­ished the ju­nior classes, but he didn’t have what it took for the train­ing. He could train se­ri­ously for 10 days and then he’d not touch the bike for 10 days. That has been the dif­fer­ence be­tween us, be­cause he was as strong as, if not stronger than me.

I al­ways liked to go out and smash my­self in train­ing.

When I was liv­ing in Den­mark and it was bad weather, I was like, ‘these are bonus hours,’ be­cause no­body else wanted to go out.

I al­ways watched the Tour on tele­vi­sion when I was a small kid.

Road rac­ing was still the For­mula 1 of cy­cling then. I thought that one day it would be cool to try it. In 2008, I did the moun­tain bike race at the Bei­jing Olympics. For me as a moun­tain biker, the Olympics was the ul­ti­mate thing to do. I had my first year as an elite rider in 2008 as well – no more U23 – and I thought I could af­ford to go to the road for two years and if it didn’t work out, I could still go back and do one year and be ready for the Olympics in Lon­don. Kim An­der­sen from Saxo-Bank called me up and asked if I was in­ter­ested and I was like, yes, why not?

It was huge to be in such a team and have guys like Andy and Fränk Sch­leck and Can­cel­lara around to learn from.

To­day I look back and say that was the best team I ever rode for and with. There was so much ex­pe­ri­ence and class in there. Stu­art O’Grady was the per­fect guy for read­ing the race. He was the guy who would guide Andy around. I learned a lot from him about tac­tics and how to ride.

I’m Eu­ro­pean, not Dan­ish.

When I fin­ished school, I was like, ‘I have to get out of Den­mark.’ You can­not live in Den­mark and be a rider – at least not my kind of rider. If you mean it se­ri­ously, you have to go away to find bet­ter train­ing roads. I had a few years in Lux­em­bourg and I lived close to Fränk and Andy. I re­cently moved to Monaco to find a lit­tle bet­ter weather and some longer climbs to train on. My wife is from Lux­em­bourg and I think af­ter my ca­reer I will prob­a­bly end up back there.

Last year we had a lit­tle girl.

She takes a lot of our free time, but it’s very nice and I en­joy it a lot. When I’m home and get to spend time with her and play with her, that’s some­thing re­ally very spe­cial.

For me, fa­ther­hood has been some­thing pos­i­tive.

I was talk­ing to An­drey Amador [Mo­vis­tar rider] who used to go down­hill like a ma­niac. At the Tour, he was leav­ing gaps and rid­ing su­per slow. I asked him what had hap­pened, if he had had a bad crash or some­thing, but no, he be­came a fa­ther three months ago and it changed his per­spec­tive on rid­ing and risks. For me, when I spend time away from home I feel I need to get some­thing out of it, so it gives me more mo­ti­va­tion. I think that in some strange way [fa­ther­hood] has made me stronger. I think it has made me more con­fi­dent as a rider in who I am and what I can do.

This year I’ve been in good shape and able to race at the top in many of the races I’ve done.

But the Tour didn’t go as ex­pected. I did a lot of tests af­ter the race and I’m still wait­ing for the re­sults of some of them. I was able to fol­low to a cer­tain level but my en­ergy level was just not good enough. It’s not that they went faster, I just kind of died. I used to be a guy whose big­gest strength was when it was hard – the punchy kind of stuff. I missed that com­pletely at the Tour.

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