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“Para mim é melhor quando a corrida é dura” – Entrevista com Stefan Küng

“Para mim é melhor quando a corrida é dura” – Entrevista com Stefan Küng

“For me it’s better when the race is tough” – Interview with Stefan Küng

The Swiss cyclist from Groupama – FDJ on his favorite classics, balancing time trials and dealing with bad luck.

Stefan Küng is 30 years old and is the main weapon of Groupama – FDJ to win a cycling ‘monument’ again – they have not done so since 2018, when Thibaut Pinot won Il Lombardia. The Swiss has not been far from achieving this, as in the last two seasons, he has never finished the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix below 6th place. In 2024, despite a less roaring start to the season, ‘King Küng’ has just finished 3rd in Dwars door Vlanderen, proving once again that, should the opportunity arise, he will be ready to dominate Belgian and French roads.

In the antechamber of the two cobbled monuments, Portuguese Cycling Magazine spoke to Stefan Küng, one of the main outsiders in the fight for victory in these races.

Versão Portuguesa: “Para mim é melhor quando a corrida se saber mais cedo” – Entrevista exclusiva com Stefan Küng

Photo: Heinz Zwicky/Getty Images

Since 2018, you have only skipped the Volta ao Algarve once. What is so special about Portugal that you chose to open the season here?

I really like that race as preparation. It has a good combination of stages, a time trial and two hard days. Even the sprint stages are not entirely easy. The atmosphere is good, the people are friendly; I really enjoy being there. It has also worked really well for me, because even though it’s not a World Tour race, the level is almost the same. It’s a perfect race to start the season.

Throughout the season, you have big goals in the classics and the time trial. How do you balance preparation for each specialty?

The first part of the season is very focused on the classics, after Roubaix I focus more on the time trial. It works quite well. With the big time trial goals this year coming in the summer and fall, I have enough time to work on that. Anyway, I already work during the winter. I never completely stop time trial training, but in the first part of the season the focus is to maintain it and then I go back to doing more specific work.

In recent seasons, you have been close to victory in the cobbled classics several times, both in much attacked races and in calmer races. What is the perfect scenario for you to win?

For me it’s better when the race is tough, when it opens up early. I’m very good at these races, but I’m not the most explosive rider and, if the race decision comes down to just one climb, I’ll always have more difficulties than if it’s a more exhausting race throughout the day.

Photo: Groupama – FDJ

You are one of the great classic cyclists behind Mathieu van der Poel, Tadej Pogačar and Wout van Aert. How does the presence of these cyclists influence the races?

I would say they are a cut above the rest of us. Obviously it’s difficult to beat them, but you don’t go into a race thinking, ‘Oh, they’re here, it’s impossible to win’. It’s just another chance and you never know what will happen. If you’re with them in the end, then you try to beat them, but it’s not easy.

What would be the perfect classics season for you?

I happened to be thinking about it a few days ago during training. If I preferred a victory, even in a smaller classic, or always being in the fight. I think that when you can win a race, whatever it is, it’s an important thing, but of course I would like to be on the podium again, like in 2022 [he was 3rd in Paris-Roubaix]. When you’re fighting for the podium, you’re also fighting for victory, which is a good situation.

Over the years you have had some bad luck that has prevented you from achieving important goals. How do you deal with these situations?

It’s part of cycling. Our sport has a certain risk and sometimes it all comes down to a few fractions of a second. We cannot look to the past looking for what to change, we must look to the future and what we can do to achieve our goals. That’s what I’m doing.

Groupama – FDJ is one of the teams with the youngest talent in the squad. What is it like for you to race with riders like Laurence Pithie? Do you feel any responsibility to take on the role of ‘mentor’?

I try to give them advice, but I can’t force them to do anything. I’m always open if you have questions, I’m happy to answer and help you. You can feel that some are more looking for this advice and others do things their own way. I think it’s good to have young, talented boys in the group, because they give the team a new atmosphere. Sometimes I try to tell them some stories about my career so that they don’t make the same mistakes I made, but there are some mistakes that everyone has to make to really learn.

We thank Stefan Küng and Groupama – FDJ for their availability to give us this interview and we wish them good luck in the upcoming challenges!

Cover photo: Getty Images

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