We’re in Cambados, mulling over how could we overlook Fred? He won the TT in the Tour of Switzerland – beating Cancellara in the process – then pushed TV hard for the polka dot jersey in le Tour.
He says he’s no ‘pure tester,’ but if there’s a big climb and a technical descent then Fred’s your man.
What a lot of folks overlook is that the little Swede won the Tour of Austria last year, taking the jersey on a massive mountain stage and defending it to the end.
That means he can get up hills; and as for getting down them – he was a world class mountain bike rider.
He rode well in the Vuelta, last year but picked up a bug and plunged down the rankings.
He’s obviously looked at this far from straightforward 39.4 K chrono in the race manual and said; ‘aha!’ or the Swedish equivalent thereof.
We hope you like the interview at the end of this piece, which we did with him just after le Tour.
He’s a nice chap is Fred, Dave and I first spoke to him at the Giro, a few years ago.
He was riding for Mauro Gianetti’s Fuji-Servetto squad, having just made the move from off-road racing.
His English is perfect and he’s very approachable.
Two stage wins in major stage wins and his contract renewed with Astana – not a bad year for him.
I’d have bet money on this stage being a shoot out between Froome (third) and Martin (11th) – but I wasn’t the only one who got it wrong.
David Harmon told us that Rodriguez was a ‘rubbish’ time trial rider.
But I recall Ryder Hesjedal having to ride on the ragged edge in the final Giro TT to hold him off.
Seventh, just a minute back on Contador doesn’t seem ‘rubbish’ to me.
The little Spaniards tail will be up – and there’s a stage finish made for him, tomorrow.
However, Contador is well and truly back, his morale will be good and so will that of his team.
Froome can’t be delighted; this was his big chance to put time into all three pesky Spaniards.
Instead, Contador put 20 seconds into him and a surprising Valverde was only 20 seconds back – with Rodriguez less than 40 seconds back.
The little Catalan held on to his jersey by the slimmest of margins – but it’s still up to the rest to wrest that red jersey off his shoulders.
Andrew Talansky again did a solid ride to finish in ninth spot for Garmin – as I’ve said before, if it wasn’t for his team’s disastrous team time trial in Pamplona, he’d well up the standings.
As it stands, he’s eighth at just over four minutes.
All in all, as we keep saying; ‘a proper bike race, not a procession.’
Fredrik Kessiakoff Interview
And here’s what Fred had to say to us, recently:
As a hard and hilly 2012 Vuelta kicks off, VeloVeritas spoke to a man who did much to enliven the mountains classification in the Tour de France – Astana’s 32 year-old Swede, Fredrik Kessiakoff.
And his excellent Tour was instrumental in recently securing him a two year contract extension with Astana.
The former mountain bike is perhaps previously best known as the man who took and held yellow in last year’s Tour of Austria, on the fearsome Grossglockner stage.
He grabbed the jersey on stage two which finished atop the brutal 1670 metre ascent of the Kitzbuheler Horn; and then he and his team defended it all the way to the finish.
But it took the affable Swede three seasons to break through as a road rider; however he did so in the grand style – alone at the top of a berg to take yellow.
Kessiakoff came late to the pro peloton after many years as a top line off-road exponent.
But in 2009 he swapped fat tyres for skinny ones and took the plunge with Mauro Gianetti’s Fuji-Servetto Pro Tour team.
In his neo-pro year he rode a packed programme which included Langkawi, Pais Vasco, Romandie, the Giro, Tour of Poland and the Vuelta, with a top ten on GC in Romandie showing his potential as a multi-stage rider.
A shift to Garmin for 2010 was disappointment due to illness, but 2011 saw the man from Nacka begin to exploit his true potential with Astana.
As well as his Austrian success, he enjoyed a spell very close to the top of the Vuelta GC in 2011 before illness ended that dream.
The start of this season was compromised by allergy problems – but a Cancellara-beating time trial in the Tour de Suisse announced his return to form.
He made the podium in the Swedish road race championships just before the Tour and then embarked upon his campaign to win what is one of the most desirable jerseys in pro cycle sport.
You had good form going in to the Tour de France – you were third in the Swedish National Road Race Championships, Fredrik.
“I was working so hard during the pre season, both physically and mentally, doing two altitude camps, spending a lot of energy – but with the allergy problems I really got nothing for it.
“I don’t think people realize just how hard I worked during the first part of the season because I could show nothing.
“Things only started to change a little at Tour of Switzerland.
“At the Swedish Championship I don’t feel I was on my top level after all the problems I had during spring. It was only as the Tour started that I had a good progression as the race went on. The Swedish Championships were OK; it’s very hard being one of the few pros in the peloton to create a hard race.
“For a climber like me the course wasn’t perfect either; but I really enjoy doing the Nationals as one of very few chances to race in Sweden.”
Was the Tour King of the Mountains a pre race goal for you?
“No, it wasn’t – I actually didn’t really start thinking about it until I first took the jersey.”
Stage eight; you took the jersey and it looked like you might take the stage – tell us about that, please.
“I took a chance, gave it all but it didn’t really work out.
“My team manager told me to go for the mountain points so I did, as he said that “they could be good to have”.
“No one was following me so I just continued.
“It was disappointing to miss the stage win, but the jersey gave my some satisfaction.”
Stage nine, the time trial, how did that go – you won the TT in Switzerland?
“I took it easy to save myself for keeping the jersey.
“I know a lot of people have been expecting a lot from me since I won the TT in Switzerland, but I would like to remind them it wasn’t a normal TT there but more of a mountain TT, I don’t consider myself a TT rider.”
From there to the finish it was a real yo-yo battle between you and Voeckler for the title.
“When I lost the jersey on stage 10 it was only with a few points and I knew I had the chance to get it back.
“I got it back on stage 11 and gave my everything to keep it for a few more days.
“But hats off to TV, he did it in such style on stage 16, taking all points that day.
“I did what I could in the first mountains and thought the GC guys would catch up in the last mountains, but he was riding so strong.
“From that on he was just too strong.”
How was support from the team?
“Of course the team was supporting me, they were all doing what they could, but in the mountains it always comes down to your own legs.
“It was however a big blow for us losing Kiserlovski in the crash caused by the tack sabotage.
“I managed to stay out of trouble that day, but realized something weird was going on when everyone around me started to get flat tires.
“It was a scary descent and I was worried I would get a flat too.”
Did you do well from the post Tour criteriums?
“I did seven Post Tour Crits, taking a train to Belgium the day after the finish in Paris.
“To me it was a very good way to continue training. After that I went to Livigno for altitude training, but I had to go home from there – I had allergy problems again.
“They were cutting the grass and some trees were still dropping pollen.”
The Olympics – was it a disappointment not to ride?
“Not really, I did both Athens and Beijing, and since Sweden, only had one spot to London the right thing was always to send Gustav for his TT chances.
“I hope the other Swedes and I get more chances to ride for ourselves with our teams in the coming years so we can qualify more riders.
“It would be nice finishing it all off with one Olympic ride on the roads in Rio.”
Another two years at Astana – you must feel comfortable there?
“I am very comfortable here; they give me the perfect balance of freedom and support.
“I get to do great races often, with a lot freedom.
“We have the best materials and it all works great for me.”
There’s quite an influx of new riders at Astana for 2013, how do you think that will affect things?
“I think it is good that such a big and great team as Astana gets a good GC contender.
“I don’t think that there will be too much of a change for me.”
What’s the programme until the end of the year?
“I will do the Vuelta and then maybe the team time trial at the Worlds.
“I have said ‘no’ to do the individual time trial, but will then probably ride the road race for Sweden.
“I will finish the season in Lombardia.
“At the Vuelta I will try my best for the overall classification. But I am still tired after the Tour and a long frustrating season.
“I will take it day by day and think a top 10-15 position would be realistic; but if I after the first week don’t feel I am riding well enough I will go for individual stages instead.
“I think the race for the red jersey will be between Contador and Froome.”
Results - La Vuelta a España 2012 - Stage 11
2 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Saxo Bank – Tinkoff Bank 0:00:17
3 Christopher Froome (GBr) Sky Procycling 0:00:39
4 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team 0:01:08
5 Benat Intxausti Elorriaga (Spa) Movistar Team 0:01:09
6 Richie Porte (Aus) Sky Procycling 0:01:15
7 Joaquim Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Katusha Team 0:01:16
8 Cameron Meyer (Aus) Orica – GreenEdge 0:01:17
9 Andrew Talansky (USA) Garmin – Sharp 0:01:24
10 Jonathan Castroviejo Nicolas (Spa) Movistar Team 0:01:34
11 Tony Martin (Ger) Omega Pharma-Quickstep 0:01:39
12 Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team 0:01:42
13 Thomas De Gendt (Bel) Vacansoleil-Dcm Pro Cycling Team 0:01:50
14 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) BMC Racing Team 0:01:57
15 Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Spa) Katusha Team 0:02:02
16 Tiago Machado (Por) Radioshack-Nissan 0:02:04
17 Maxime Bouet (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 0:02:05
18 Lars Boom (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team 0:02:06
19 Juan Antonio Flecha Giannoni (Spa) Sky Procycling 0:02:16
20 Laurens Ten Dam (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team 0:02:20
21 Nicolas Roche (Irl) AG2R La Mondiale 0:02:21
22 Alexsandr Dyachenko (Kaz) Astana Pro Team 0:02:23
23 Brent Bookwalter (USA) BMC Racing Team 0:02:24
24 Christophe Riblon (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 0:02:34
25 Mikel Astarloza Chaurreau (Spa) Euskaltel – Euskadi 0:02:37
26 Maciej Bodnar (Pol) Liquigas-Cannondale 0:02:38
27 Maxime Monfort (Bel) Radioshack-Nissan 0:02:40
28 Kristof Vandewalle (Bel) Omega Pharma-Quickstep 0:02:43
29 Gustavo Cesar Veloso (Spa) A