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