CyclingPub Interview: Amund Grøndahl Jansen ahead of WorldTour debut
Jan 27 2017 11:18 am CET

CyclingPub Interview: Amund Grøndahl Jansen ahead of WorldTour debut

By joining LottoNL-Jumbo, Norwegian cyclist Amund Grøndahl Jansen is generally regarded as one of the top talents to make his debut in the UCI WorldTour. CyclingPub spoke with the rider during his team's training camp in Alicante, Spain.

Born in 1994, Grøndahl Jansen made a big impression in the last few years. Results in 2016 included overall victories in the ZLM Roompot Tour and the Tour de Gironde, as well as stage wins in Gironde and the Tour de l'Avenir.

The rider made his U23 debut at Team Plussbank in 2013 and moved to Team Joker in 2015. Having just finished his time as a youth rider, the Scandinavian is now ready to compete at the highest level.

It’s a big change for you this year, coming from Joker. How are you experiencing it so far?

It’s been a nice experience. Of course a lot of differences but in the end it’s still cycling so you still just turn the pedals
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Amund Grøndahl Jansen, Lotto NL-Jumbo
Photos by Mary Cárdenas / CyclingPub.com

What kind of differences are there?

In one way everything is different. There are different people, a different language, a different bike and different equipment. We go to different places for training camps. But it’s also very much the same as it’s still cycling, still going to a training camp and still training. There are differences but also a lot of similarities.

"They were one of the first teams to contact me. That gave me a sense of appreciation, that they actually really want this connection to happen."

Why did you choose this team? There were more interested teams, right?

Yes, I had a few interests. But I think they approached me in a very nice way and they were early. They were one of the first teams to contact me. That gave me a sense of appreciation, that they actually really want this connection to happen. I think they presented a good plan for why they wanted to sign me whereas other teams didn’t necessarily have a good plan. Those teams wanted to sign a rider with good results but didn’t consider the future plans or prospects.

This team wants to offer you a balance by taking it easier in your first year but also giving you a chance to go for your own results?

Yes, I am very pleased with my role. Of course we will see when the races start whether it changes or not, but the role I was presented and that I’ve had for now is something that I’m very satisfied with. In some races I can help the captains and do my job more silently, without the pressure that comes with going for the result yourself, but at the same time it’s always good to frequently try to get your own results in order to keep the edge.

You already know a bit more about the kind of races you would want to ride for your own result?

For this year they will be the smaller races we do, the category 1 races. Maybe some HC races where I can try to get my own results. A few races in the spring in Belgium and the Netherlands where I can try and maybe one of the Norwegian races. We’ll see. Once in a while an opportunity opens here and there and I think as a professional rider you have to take it when it comes.

You mentioned Norway already. Coming from Joker, which is a Norwegian team, you have been used to riding mostly with Norwegians while here there aren’t even any Scandinavians. Is that something you notice and have to get used to?

Of course I speak a different language when I’m here. My English is fair enough so it’s no problem to talk. But of course I notice that I’m the only Scandinavian here. It’s not a big deal I think. The culture is quite similar. The difference between the Norwegian and Dutch cultures isn’t that big.

The Dutch may be a bit more talkative?

Perhaps a bit louder. There are a few small differences but everyone here has the same interest through cycling so we have a lot of topics to talk about. It’s not like because I’m not Dutch we can’t find anything. I still eat cheese.

And they even sell typical Norwegian cheese (‘brunost’) here on the Costa Blanca.

Yes they do actually. There are a lot of Norwegian residents in this area, especially the retirees. So there are a lot of specialized stores for Norwegians.

About the bicycles: How does Bianchi suit you until now?

I really like it. I think it’s the best bike I’ve ever ridden. It’s everything I want from a bike.

What is it that makes it a top level bike?

It feels very stiff. That’s perhaps the first thing I noticed. The handling is very good as well. I always feel very comfortable, even at high speed on descents, it’s still very smooth. It’s stiff but it’s not uncomfortable so I feel like I can ride it for an entire day without having any aches or pains. What you don’t notice is whether it’s aerodynamic or not. Tests say that it is so that aspect is good as well.

You tested it yourself as well?

I tested the time trial bike and set-up in the velodrome. The road bikes I think they tested during the production in the wind tunnel. It’s supposed to be quite aerodynamic.

"I think I have the typical Norwegian characteristics. I can sprint and I can do classics."

About your style as a rider: Is there any currently successful rider that you would compare your style with?

That’s a difficult one. Maybe a lot of the Norwegians share the same characteristics. Perhaps I’m a little bit like Thor (Hushovd) or Alexander (Kristoff). Edvald (Boasson Hagen) can do everything, even climb. I’m not exactly like him but I think I have the typical Norwegian characteristics. I can sprint and I can do classics.

Is any of those guys you have already mentioned also an example to you?

As a Norwegian we don’t have that much of a cycling culture or history. So of course I always looked to successful Norwegians to have the confirmation that it’s possible to become a good cyclist even as a Norwegian. Throughout my childhood I was always watching Thor on television. That is how I learned about cycling.

Have you also been in touch with any of them, for example since joining this team, to ask for advice?

I talked with Thor in Qatar, after the World Championships. I met with him there but I haven’t really had a deep conversation. I knew him from before, from our road race development team in 2013 and 2014. So we already knew each other and he shared a bit of advice and wished me good luck.

For the upcoming season, what would you like to happen for you to consider it successful?

My personal goal is to win a race. I don’t necessarily have to win a race for it to be successful. It’s always difficult to win competitions as a cyclist because of all the external factors that can be of influence. If I reach the podium once or twice it might be enough depending on the race and the situation. To make it a good season I need to really feel like I am useful for the captains, that I can contribute to the sprint train and help him get good results.

"I think that for doing what I’m good at, I’m quite sure that there aren’t many riders that can do the same, at the same level."

Some media point at you as one of the biggest talents to join the WorldTour this season. Do you agree with that assessment?

I don’t know. From the U23 I was probably one of the riders that got the best results, I would think. At the same time I was still finishing my four years in the U23. It was my last year as a U23 rider and I would say that if you win races in the Nations Cup at 19 years old, you’re a bigger talent than when you win them as a 22-year-old. But I think that for doing what I’m good at, I’m quite sure that there aren’t many riders that can do the same, at the same level.

Does that come with a bit of extra pressure as well?

Not really. There have been a lot of big talents that haven’t made it and there were many riders that weren’t the biggest talents but subsequently had a big career as a WorldTour rider. I will just enjoy riding my bike and keep working to improve myself. The outside world doesn’t really influence me that much. What is written in the media, I don’t really mind.

What do you think of the current situation in Norwegian cycling?

It’s rapidly becoming more and more popular. I remember that when I was a rider in my early teams there were a lot less riders in the Norwegian competitions. In the Norwegian Cup there were only few participants. But now there has been an explosion. A huge increase in the number of cyclists. Obviously, the more people doing the sport, the more talents you will discover as a consequence.

You can see from the U23 Nations Cup in the last few years that Norway has consistently been in the top five. So there’s a lot of talent coming up and there are good continental teams that can take care of the talents. But what’s really missing in Norway is something to connect a continental team with a WorldTour team. Now, even if you’re very good and you win races but not enough, or not the right races, it’s still difficult to advance to a professional team.

"for Norway to take the next step, we need a Pro Continental or a WorldTour team to give the chance to riders that aren't necessarily as talented as Edvald or Thor."

It’s natural for LottoNL-Jumbo, as a Dutch team, that they will always search for a Dutch rider first. So if you’re as good as another Dutch rider, they would normally take the Dutch one. So for Norway to take the next step, we need a Pro Continental or a WorldTour team to give the chance to riders that aren’t necessarily as talented as Edvald or Thor were.

About the WorldTour in Norway: A lot of races have been added to the WorldTour this season but none from Norway. Do you think the country deserves a WorldTour race?

I think it would be cool to have a WorldTour race in Norway but I don’t know whether the moment is right. It will exclude the participation of all the continental teams. So you’ll suddenly have one race with a big budget and a lot of good riders competing, but you don’t allow the Norwegian talents to go there. There may be a national team but that will only have six or eight riders.

So for now it’s good that we have professional races where most of the continental teams can meet the professionals and see where the level is at. I’m not sure if a WorldTour race would be the best decision at this moment.

The World Championships will be in Bergen this year. Do you already know anything about whether you will be included in the Norwegian selection?

It will depend on how many riders Norway is allowed to start with. If it’s a nine-man team I think I will have fairly good chances. I will definitely be in the discussion. But if we have a bad season and there’s a three-man team, there will be Kristoff and Edvald and I don’t think I will be the first choice for the last spot. It depends a little bit.

Do you think the course would suit you?

I think so. From what I’ve heard it’s like a classics course. It’s a little technical with some small hills and cobbles. For me it sounds like a good course.

What is your favorite race on the calendar?

There are so many new races now but I think Paris-Roubaix is the one race that I really like the most. It’s the one race I always make sure to watch on television and if I ride it this year it would perhaps be the coolest moment of the year.
Photo of Amund Grøndahl Jansen by Mary Cárdenas / CyclingPub.com





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