While half his team-mates have left for pastures new, Olympic silver medallist Gustav Larsson is content to build on a successful year that included his first Grand Tour stage win.
CS: This year you finished 10th in the Worlds time trial, but you have taken silver twice behind Fabian Cancellara (2009 Worlds and 2008 Olympics). How do you beat him?
I have to be in my best shape to be able to win, but it is hard to beat Mister Fabian. I have to ride differently, but I honestly don’t know how, otherwise I would have already beaten him! He is a totally different rider than me in the way that he is able to accelerate out of corners. After the corners or the climbs, he gets straight up to speed. I always try to improve on that, but I can only do so many intervals.
What type of parcours would suit you?
I need longer straights. Look at the Olympics parcours for example, you had a long climb. Those long climbs usually are the best for me because I can maintain a high average output of power. I would like to win the Worlds or Olympics time trial title once before I retire. Maybe some day there will be a parcours that suits me.
You have had a good season, with the Giro d’Italia time trial and the Tour du Limousin overall wins. Has it been your best season so far?
It was a bit up and down. I had my best form ever when I was supposed to go to the Tour de France, but Bjarne [Riis] did not pick me for the squad. Bjarne had different thoughts about tactics; he wanted more climbers on the team.
I was in good climbing form, as well. It’s a shame because I was in shape and had to waste my form during my vacation.
You may have a better chance of being selected next year with the Schleck brothers and Cancellara leaving. Why are so many riders leaving Saxo Bank?
Fabian, for example, wanted to leave for a long time, since before the Tour de France. We all knew that, but we really didn’t know why or where. I really don’t know the reason behind it.
The new Luxembourg-based team is the reason why so many other riders are leaving. The Schlecks left and those who could followed because it was a good chance and probably good money. It is a good group here at Saxo Bank and that is probably why others wanted to follow — you have to keep the group together.
Will they find a similar environment in the new team?
Yes, of course, because half the team is going to go there. Half the mechanics, half the soigneurs, half the riders, half the sports directors…
Your contract goes through 2011. Did you think to try to break it, as we’ve seen with Fabian Cancellara and Brad Wiggins?
You have to pay a lot of penalty fees to get out early like that. You need a team that will pay you your contract plus all your penalties. Besides, I like it here and I have not looked at anything else.
What are your goals going to be for next year?
I am always trying to improve my climbing so I can win some stage races. That’s what I really want to be good at. If I can improve then I can stay in contention in the time trials and be up in the overall classification.
What stage races are you ideally suited to?
The Tour of Switzerland usually suits me well. Time wise, I was not that far behind in this year’s race. It’s going to come down to what the team wants of me. Of course, I would like to have my chances at the Tour of Switzerland and those types of races.
Was the Giro d’Italia win in Verona your best this year?
Yeah, because that was the first time I won in a Grand Tour.
Were you surprised your team-mate Richie Porte finished seventh overall?
I was not that surprised and not even when he won the time trial at the Tour of Romandy. I was surprised when I saw him at the training camp, he pulled massive watts there. He is really a small guy and cuts through the wind easily.
What did surprise me was that he actually never really made a mistake in the Giro. He was not behind any crashes or caught out. He was always making all the right choices. He was in the breakaway on the stage to L’Aquila, he had everything go his way.
What is he capable of?
We will see, there is no doubt he is a rider with big potential. It is always easy to see a young guy go well and then think that the next year he is going to be stronger and better, but it doesn’t necessarily pan out that way. When you are young, you don’t always get better every year. You can have one good year, a couple of bad years, a good year again… It is up to him if he is going to be getting better.
What was your first impression of him at the training camp?
At the second camp, I saw that he was strong. We had a mountain time trial there and I think he was third behind Jakob Fuglsang and me. I thought he was going well, even if he had a couple of extra kilos.