Mathias Larsen: “That feeling of achieving something together, as one, is wonderful”

Dane Mathias Larsen was one of seven new faces in the third project of the Alberto Contador Foundation in the continental category. The Scandinavian cyclist, Madison world champion in the junior category, teamed up with his compatriot Julius Johansen, made his debut with his new colours in a pair of trophies in the Challenge of Mallorca. He was part of the Vuelta a la Comunitat Valenciana, took on the Clásica de Almería and the Tour de Antalya. Nine days of competition for a Larsen who still has not been able to display on the asphalt the speed and power that he is known for in the formative categories.

How was the process of adaptation to the team with your calendar?

It was a very good start to the season and it’s always difficult to get into a new category. Personally I feel good, stronger and stronger, and I’m very satisfied with Carlos Barredo’s planning. If you want to be better, you have to face the toughest rivals in the toughest races. Stronger rivals, more competition, will always make you stronger.

Also with hard times for you…

The Vuelta a la Comunitat Valenciana is actually a small blur, a bad memory. I had a very bad time there. In the second stage I retired. A bad experience from which I learned a lot.

The orographic difficulties are not great allies for your cycling skills and you assume this lack with the naturalness of the one that usually lives in an environment taken by the plains .

The mountain is my Achilles’ heel. In Denmark we don’t have big mountains. In every race at the end, one way or another, there are mountains, there are climbs. That’s a problem for me. I have to keep training to improve it. I don’t know about going somewhere, climbing a mountain once, and that’s it, you climb well. No. You have to train hard. Climbing, climbing, climbing… over and over again.

And it was in that very undertaking that you were surprised by the outbreak of the European-wide coronavirus health crisis…

I was in Mallorca with several friends, a few days of training on the island, when the subject became very serious. The government of our country called for us to return as soon as possible, because the borders were going to be closed. We had to return in a hurry. The flight, moreover, was quite expensive. But we returned as soon as possible. Soon Denmark closed its borders. The coronavirus was not particularly harmful in our country, but no doubt because of these kinds of measures.

At home you found different conditions than in other countries, like Spain or Italy, for example, when it comes to exercising abroad…

You could go outside, but depending on the moment a maximum number. At the beginning, for example, two riders together at most. The situation, seen like that, was not so bad. Compared to what my Spanish or Italian colleagues were telling me, no doubt. Here you could at least go out and ride. The roller at the end is very boring and for the mind of course being able to go out is more than an escape route. As time went by, the control measures became more relaxed. In a few weeks you could get up to seven riders together. From this past Monday, June 8th, fifteen can concentrate…

What were some of the measures taken in your country?

First of all, as everywhere else, the priority was public health. It is our responsibility. My grandparents, for example, we haven’t seen them all this time as a matter of precaution. In Denmark, the preventive measure of social distance prevails above all. In the supermarket, when you go to pay at the checkout, you have to keep a meter and a half. Masks are not compulsory. You see some, especially among older people. As a protective measure. Places like nightclubs where you can meet your friends are not yet open.

Despite this greater laxity, it’s also been a difficult time for you…

On a mental level it’s been hard, especially since you don’t know when you’ll be competing again. When you train you do it to prepare for the competition. Training without racing on the horizon is not easy. It’s not easy to tell your mind that you have to keep working even when there is no short-term perspective on what for… But you have to keep training, taking care of your food, your rest… It’s a weird period, like the end of the season. But you have to keep being equally serious. In a way, that’s the approach these days: like it’s winter. Training hard. Without losing sight of the fact that you are at home, something that due to our activity is not the most usual at this time, and that can also be something to take advantage of and have fun. Spending time at home with the family, with your brothers and sisters… Carlos Barredo is doing a great job with his training program. We do the work in the morning and then in the afternoon it is time to relax.

Is Mathias Larsen confident of a close return from the competitions?

I do have that confidence. Personally I love to ride a bike. I love it, it’s my favorite thing in the world. And my goal is to return to racing with the Kometa-Xstra, to help the team in any way I can, to support my teammates, to achieve good results,… It is clear that this whole situation has been exceptional and one has to accept that as much as cycling is very important for oneself, there are things that are bigger. Health is one of those things. But yes, I’m confident of that return.

In Denmark, however, his Tour of Denmark has already been confirmed as one of the dates that will finally not take place in this 2020 although it had entered the provisional calendar of the International Cycling Union .

Yes, although it also seems that the possibility of competition is slowly opening up. This Sunday, for example, there will be some competitions for the lower categories. It’s not easy to say. There are multiple factors around this sport. It is a question that depends on the authorities, they are the ones who must give the OK. It’s a question of waiting to see what they say.

From a prism of social distance, although its development is outside, cycling is a complex sport…

In a main group, it’s impossible to keep a safe distance. Two hundred riders riding very close together, with multiple situations that are part of cycling and that take place in a minimum space: drinking water, uncovering their nostrils, spitting… The only real solution is the discovery of the vaccine. We must hope that it arrives soon. When everyone is in trouble, as is the case, the big companies always get their act together.

How do you sum up your season with the Kometa-Xstra Cycling Team?

I feel very lucky to be part of this team. It’s an absolutely fantastic structure. I’m Danish, I don’t speak Spanish, only few bad words (smiles), and that’s something that can always make you doubt in the sense of ‘let’s see how it goes with the teammates, mostly Spanish and Italian’… But the truth is that it’s very good. We have good communication between us. And I include the staff. We all have a big family. I honestly think it’s one of the best teams in the world. I’m very happy to be here and I’m looking forward to rolling with my teammates again.

What has been the best moment of this great family?

I think Antalya. It was a good race at group level, with Alessandro Fancellu’s final podium finish. In the mountains it’s not that I can help as much as I’d like, but on the flat I gave it my all. As I said before in another question I love to ride a bike. And I like to win. But that feeling of helping your teammates, that feeling of achieving something together, as one, is wonderful. In this team there are several nationalities and we are all very different in several aspects. But above all we are a team and we have created something very beautiful. That’s why I said before that it’s one of the best teams in the world.

And what about this season’s bike, what is your feedback?

Very happy! It’s going very well, it’s a good bike and it’s one of the best I’ve ever had in my life. I would say that it is a very climbing bike. I love this sport, it’s my passion, I love going out every day to ride my bike. At the beginning, my friends watched it with a lot of curiosity. When you stop for a coffee, it’s a bike that attracts attention. It’s like if you park a Ferrari, I could say my bike is like a Ferrari.

(automatic translation, sorry for mistakes)