At the recent Tour de Pologne, Team Novo Nordisk raced their first ever WorldTour stage race. What will make the experience even more memorable was the truly epic weather conditions faced at the race. Stage five saw torrential rain so bad that only half of the field finished. Stage six got underway the next day, but was quickly cancelled due to the heavy rain.
Only Javier Megias and Charles Planet managed to finish for Team Novo Nordisk, and CyclingQuotes caught up with 22 year old Frenchman Planet at the Tour of Denmark to ask him about the race.
Speaking initially about his season as a whole, Planet seemed pleased but is hoping for bigger results to round off the campaign.
“Overall, I’m pretty happy because I’ve finished every race and I feel that I’m much stronger compared to last year. But so far, I haven’t had any great results on a stage or at a big race so I hope to improve on that. When I look at my calendar I feel good about this upcoming week in Denmark and the races in Belgium in August. For the moment, it isn’t a bad year for me, yet I am really looking for more,” the talented Planet told CyclingQuotes exclusively.
After this, it was time to get into what CyclingQuotes really wanted to hear about: the Tour de Pologne. Epic is a word that is too often banded around too easily in cycling, but no one would contest the appropriateness of the term when describing the race from two weeks ago.
“Poland was a really hard race; it was the hardest race I’ve ever done. First, it had 200 riders and I could feel that difference. The weather conditions also really made the race challenging. I’ve never raced that long or that hard in conditions like what we saw on Stage 5, especially with those steep climbs and the length of the stage. “
Planet’s age and WorldTour inexperience made the feat even more impressive, something which wasn’t lost on the 22 year old.
“I made it to the finish and I feel proud because I was one of the youngest riders to finish the race. It was hard, but good. I learned a lot during the race and I really hope to use that experience in the future.”
Something that always strikes riders doing their first elite level race is just how different the race is to what they have done before. Did Charles have any comparisons or differences from WT level events to the other races he does?
“The main difference to me was the size of the peloton. I could really feel the difference of having 200+ riders in the field. The size of a World Tour race is huge and takes some adjusting to. I learned that if you aren’t in good position, it can make all the difference.”
Many cycling fans remember with glee the great episodes of Backstage Pass run by Orica-GreenEDGE at the 2014 Giro d’Italia, when the team was left for the last few stages with just Svein Tuft and Michael Hepburn. As mentioned earlier, Team Novo Nordisk faced the same situation with Megias and Planet. Was that strange for Planet to have all that room on the bus?
“Obviously, I would have preferred to have my whole team there, but all the teams lost so many riders. I was proud to finish that race, especially when I saw so much of the field had to pull out. Finishing the race gave me confidence because going in I didn’t feel my form was perfect. I was coming off a break and didn’t have the speed in my legs yet. I felt I wasn’t at my best, yet I still finished the race.”
Charles is already quite sure of where he will be racing in the future, with some Belgian races and the Czech Tour on the immediate horizon.
“Up next for me is Czech Republic, then two races in Belgium followed by the Tour de Fjords, a few Italian races and the Munsterland Giro in Germany. I really hope I can race at the Japan Cup at the end of the season. This is a very important race for me. I have raced there twice before and I know the profile suits my strengths and I really hope to do well there.”
Looking way into the future, the team’s manager Phil Southerland has told CyclingQuotes he hopes to take his team to the Tour de France by 2021. With the race just finishing and Planet being French, does he harbour ambitions of making that team when the time comes?
“Of course that is one of my ambitions. It would be an amazing dream to be part of the world’s first all-diabetes pro cycling team to race at the Tour. I’m focused on making this dream come true and hopefully sharing that amazing experience with my teammates. We are all working every year toward this goal. For now though, we are taking it race-by-race.”
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