Uno-X general manager Jens Haugland was overcome with emotion after finding out his team will line up at the Tour de France for the first time this July.
The Scandinavian team will join fellow ProTeam Israel-Premier Tech as the two wildcard invitations at the 2023 edition of the race.
Speaking exclusively to Cycling Weekly on Wednesday, Haugland explained how race director Christian Prudhomme called him on New Year’s Day to tell him the good news.
“It was a very, very friendly phone call," he said. "He had a good laugh and I had to spend quite a lot of time after that call just to remember everything. He asked me if we were ready for 2023 because we’re going to race the Tour de France.
"I just started screaming," the Uno-X manager laughed. “[There were] a lot of emotions. I have devoted a lot of time to trying to make sure this happens. It’s just huge, enormous for a young team like ours.”
After forming as a Continental team in 2010, Norwegian-registered Uno-X were promoted to ProTeam status in 2020. This year’s Tour will be the team’s first three-week Grand Tour.
“We feel that this is the correct next step for us,” Haugland said. “We’re not in the Tour de France because we're nice people. We’re in the Tour de France because we have a very good cycling team, and that acknowledgement from the organiser is of course enormous for Norwegian and Scandinavian cycling.”
When they take the start line in July, Uno-X will become the first Scandinavian team in a decade to race at the Tour, following on from then Danish-registered Saxo-Tinkoff in 2013.
According to Haugland, the team will not hold any GC ambitions, but instead will deploy aggressive tactics to target stage wins.
“We’re not going to be defensive, we’re going to be very positive and attacking in our racing,” he said. “No one can tell me that we are not able to win a stage in the Tour de France this year.”
One rider who knows what victory feels like at the race is former European champion Alexander Kristoff, who joined Uno-X this season from Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert. The 35-year-old Norwegian has started nine Tours de France in his career and taken four stage wins, claiming the yellow jersey on the opening day in 2020.
Asked about the importance of having Kristoff on the team, Haugland said: “He brings this experience and calmness into the whole situation.
“It means a lot to us to have Alex on board as a captain and also a leader of the team going into such an experience.”
The 2023 Tour de France will start in Bilbao, Spain on 1 July.
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