Recent bronze medallist at the World Championships in Yorkshire after blowing up the race at more than 60 kilometres from the finish, Stefan Küng is among the riders on form as the season nears its end. The Swiss rider from the Groupama FDJ team also expects to be in his element on the uncomfortable terrain to try to win Sunday in Tours.
Several riders have already finished their season after the Worlds. To the contrary, do you want to continue to take advantage of your current form?
“I took a break in September and did some high-altitude training to prepare for the Worlds, which has allowed me to take on the end of the season both mentally and physically fresh. The World Championship was the main objective, but there are still some terrific races afterwards and in particular Paris-Tours. This is the one I have had in mind since the conclusion of the Worlds, and the one that suits me best.”
You returned to competition on Binche-Chimay-Binche (9th) where you were still in contention and even a protagonist in the leading group in the final stretch. How were your feeling?
“I felt very good, maybe a little too good, because I really put in a lot of effort. I didn’t want to wait for the sprint, so I pulled away from the peloton several times, but in spite of that, there was a regrouping and I was dropped. It was still confirmation that I am in very good shape.”
The scenario on last year’s Paris-Tours, with a rather aggressive selection quite far from the finish, would suit you nicely for a solo attack…
“I hope the race will be tough, the more demanding it is, the better it suits me. I saw that the selection can also happen due to mechanical problems on the trails, so we will put in a meticulous reconnaissance ride Friday, which will allow us to adapt the equipment and avoid a premature elimination.”
©Presse Sports “Once I build a gap, I know that I can hold on and the distance doesn’t scare me. That is why I always prefer to anticipate.”
What do you think about the trails in the vineyards? For someone who is strong on the Roubaix cobblestones in the Spring (11th), it shouldn’t be too much of a big deal…
“Yes, and I also love the Strade Bianche, so it doesn’t pose any problems. When I train, I very often ride on rocky trails because I like it. I know how to react on these terrains and in the race, it helps. It does not scare me and it’s even an advantage.”
Your success rate is rather high when you decide to attack. What tells you when it is the right time to go for it?
“When my legs are really hurting, I tell myself that it must be truly difficult for everyone. And generally, it is at that moment that an attack can allow me to take off. And once I build a gap, I know that I can hold on and I am not afraid of the distance. That is why I always prefer to anticipate and have a lead from my adversaries.”
You have the chance to put in a strong race with Groupama FDJ. What will be the strategy on Sunday?
“We will use all of our options. It will certainly be up to me to be the first one to move and to be included in the selection. And if it doesn’t happen, with Arnaud and Marc who is also in good shape, we will for sure still have at least one rider in the group for the win. It is always good to be able to count on several options, especially in a race of more than 200 kilometres.”
To win Paris-Tours would be a terrific way to end your first year with Groupama FDJ…but what initial evaluation can you already make?
“It has been very positive because in changing teams I wanted to take on more responsibilities. Having to ride for Greg Van Avermaet, I lost a bit of the winning instinct, which made the start of the season a little difficult. But then I was able to take on my role as a team leader and win some races. And of course, there was the Tour de France where I rode for Thibaut Pinot, who has the ability to win, which is extremely motivating.”