Sven Erik Bystrøm Gets PEZ’d!
Rider Interview: World champion is a good start to any professional career, even if you can’t wear the rainbow jersey. Katusha’s new young signing; Sven Erik Bystrøm want’s to repeat his Under23 win in the Elite class, which isn’t a bad ambition. We caught up with the champ at the Katusha training camp in Spain.
PEZ: World champion; that must be nice. Can you talk us through the finalé?
Sure, really nice. I felt really good from the beginning, I had been lying at the back of the peloton for almost the entire race, because always at the Worlds and especially in the under 23’s, the peloton is quite nervous. So I stayed in the pack to save my legs and then on the last lap there was some attacking and I was waiting, waiting, waiting for the last time and I was full-gas and then I was completely exhausted. I was lying on the top of the frame almost not pedaling, which was the fastest way to go I think, because it’s so aero. When I looked round with 500 meters to go, I saw the gap and knew that was it. A nice feeling.
How Sven Erik Bystrøm became World champion:
PEZ: Have you noticed a difference at home since the win, with the press?
Yeah, there was a lot of media attention afterwards, which was nice because of course you like to be in the light. It’s been good and it’s a perfect start to being a professional, being a World champion people know my name from before. I’m now not only that guy who Alexander [Kristoff] wanted in the team.
PEZ: What was the reaction at home?
It was good, but we also had a really good team performance with the riders from Norway. There was me and 3rd and 5th, so people were asking, “what are you doing in Norway?” The sport is getting really popular in Norway and people are paying more and more attention now. When I was young I was motivated by Thor Hushovd winning stages in the Tour de France and later on; Alex doing some great rides and also Edvald. Now there are going to be even more Norwegian riders for the future, I think.
PEZ: Were your family happy with your World’s win?
It was great to have them there in Ponferrada, with friends and my old coach also, so for me that was special and it was nice to have them there.
PEZ: It’s sad that you can’t wear the Rainbow jersey. Did you not race again after the Worlds?
Sure a little sad. No I didn’t race after, never. I have some jerseys for the memory. I can’t wear it, but next year I’m not an under 23 rider anymore, so I can go for the big one.
PEZ: I don’t think you can have the rainbow bands on your jersey either.
I don’t think so, they allowed it a few years ago, but not now. Maybe I’ll get some colors on the bike or the helmet.
PEZ: Were you interested in any other sports?
I played football until I was 13, most people chose football over other sports, but I chose cycling.
PEZ: Did Alex help you a lot when you were younger?
We are in the same training group at home, we share the same trainer and we train a lot with my old teammates from the Øster Hus-Ridley team. So we are a really good group, we have a really good environment in the area we train in. He is of course the highest ranked and he helps the younger riders to improve. He shows it’s possible and that it is possible for us. I’m a bit younger, so I have more five years.
PEZ: So Thor Hushovd was your hero when you were younger?
Yeah, when I started cycling there was only Hushovd in Norway in the Tour de France, so he was the big hero, but later on I got to know Alex and he showed it was possible to do the same.
PEZ: So if you were playing football how did you get interested in cycling?
My father had a colleague who was into cycling, I was friends with his son who was the same age as me, he was almost the only person in my town watching the Tour de France and travelling to France. He said to me “you have to watch the Tour de France” so I sat the whole summer watching TV when I was nine years old. I was so fascinated by the sport, the tactics and everything. It comes from that. He then took me to races when I started competing all over Norway. Then after that we went to some races in Denmark and it got bigger and bigger. When I was 16 I moved from my home town to Stavanger, the city were Alex is from, I had to get a house for myself and learn to cook and everything and go to school. For me it was very good and also there was this big cycling community.
PEZ: Will you stay in Norway now you are a professional with a WorldTour team?
Yes I will still stay in Stavanger where I moved when I was 16. A lot of people think it’s not possible to live in Norway during the season, but it is. Where we are, Stavanger is on the western coast of Norway, and now in the winter we have practically no snow and about 5ºC to 10ºC with some rain, but then it also rains in the Classics. We are used to that and so we are well prepared for the Classics.
PEZ: I ask because there are so many riders living in Gerona, Monaco and Tuscany, would you consider moving south?
I’m thinking about it, but for now I have my trainer living in Stavanger, my girlfriend lives in Stavanger and she is studying, so it’s a bit complicated to move. There are a lot of good riders in the area from my old Continental team; eight out of twelve riders live in the area. So we have a group of ten riders every day.
PEZ: What is your plan for the rest of the winter?
I was in Norway over Christmas and then a week in Gran Canarias for the New Year with Alex and our families followed by a week back in Norway. After that it’s back here (Calpe, Spain) for two more weeks with Katusha and then the season starts, almost. So we are not too long in Norway, two weeks maximum.
PEZ: Do you know your calendar?
Pretty much, but it’s not official yet. I think I will start with Qatar, then do some of the Classics, not the biggest, but some of them. They told me I would have some of the smaller races that I won’t have pressure and can make my own results and not work for a leader. They are having a smooth program for me as a new pro; I don’t need to go to the Giro and the big races. So it’s a very good program for me and it’s in co-operation with my trainer in Norway.
PEZ: How do you see your future in say five years?
I hope to be as good as Alexander, as he has shown he can get to a high level. I hope to do the Classics, I think it’s better for me to concentrate on the Ardennes: Liege, Amstel and races like that and of course I would like to win a stage of the Tour de France one day. I hope to be developing better and better from year to year and in five years I hope to be one of the best riders in the World.
PEZ: That’s a good aim.
I think every bike rider has to aim for that.
PEZ: You see yourself as a rider for the Ardennes Classics, but Tour riders also ride them.
Yes, in these races you see Purito and Contador and also some of the Classics riders can ride them and that makes them even more difficult to win, I think.
PEZ: But you don’t see yourself as a GC rider in a long stage race?
No I don’t think so, I like the shorter climbs, but if it’s longer than 10 kilometers it’s too long for me I think. I’m 1.88 meters so maybe I’m too big. For sure I’m lighter than Kristoff, but I don’t want to focus on the big climbs.
PEZ: What about cobbles?
I like cobbles, but it’s different riding them as a junior, it’s much harder riding them with the professionals. We will see how I do in the next years and if I’m doing well then maybe…I love the Tour of Flanders and Roubaix.
PEZ: Do you see this year as a learning curve?
Yeah. I’m not 100% sure what kind of rider I am yet, so I have to see how it goes. But I aim to do some good races in my first year. I hope so.
PEZ: What about your sprint?
For the last couple of years my sprint has been my weaknesses, but I’ve got one of the best sprinters as a training, so… If I’m in a smaller group I have the chance, but big bunch sprints are not for me I think. It’s not something you can train for, you must have it in your legs from the beginning, and you can’t go from a non-sprinter to a sprinter. You can train to improve.
PEZ: What would you be happy with in 2015?
I will be happy if I can do a good job for Alex and the other leaders in the bigger races and a victory or good results in the other races. And of course we have the Norwegian races, Tour of the Fjords and the Tour of Norway, that would be a dream for me to do something in them. Also I’m hoping to be selected for the Worlds in Richmond, Norway only had three spots for the last years, but maybe this year well get six spots.
PEZ: Do you train with a power meter and are you a 100% numbers guy?
Yes, but not 100%. I like to analyze after the ride, but during the training I don’t like to look, then you are like a robot. But they are a great tool for analyzing your training. It’s funny as I had an SRM all season, but at the Worlds I had nothing and I won. I know my body quite well, but when you are training you have to be quite specific. When you are in a bad way you can feel it right away and when you are good you know, you can’t just go by the numbers.
PEZ: So why was Norway so good in the Under 23 race?
I think the federation have done a really good job, I think a few years ago we didn’t have a chance to make any results, even with the juniors. In Limburg we had the World junior time trial champion (Oskar Svendsen), so that was maybe the start for something new. In 2013 we had third in the Under 23 road race with Sondre Holst Enger and this year a rider won a stage in the Tour de l’Avenir and other races. So there is a big talent and even for next year there are lots of good Norwegians.
PEZ: But why?
Could be because we are all about the same age and been motivated by Alex, Hushovd and Edvald’s success. They have a good mentality and they train a lot and they do the right things and that’s about it I think. Hard work.
PEZ: As a new rider in the peloton, what do you think about beards?
Ha. Well for me it’s not so really good because I have a slow growing rate. But I think it’s cool that some guys have them. My old teammate at Øster Hus, the Norwegian champion Tormod Hausken Jacobsen, he has a big beard. He has trimmed it a bit, but when he won the championship it was big. He’s a great guy and one of the ones for the future.
PEZ: Your Katusha teammate Luca Paolini gets away with it.
Yeah, it suits him. I think for the Classics it’s cool as you have to be a bit rough and it’s raining and cold, but I don’t imagine it would be so good in the Tour de France when it’s 35ºC.
PEZ: What about the full arm tattoo?
Yeah, cycling is becoming a badass sport. I don’t think I’ll get one, my mother would be angry, I think all mothers would be angry.
World Under23 champion Sven Erik Bystrøm is the future of cycling, he knows what he wants and that’s to be the best rider in the World, can’t say better than that.