Tour de France 2019: Fuglsang primed for his strongest challenge

Jakob Fuglsang has never finished higher than seventh at the Tour de France but it would be a surprise if that is still the case come the end of this year's race.

In fact, a combination of factors mean Fuglsang is considered a genuine contender to claim the yellow jersey for Astana.

Now 34, the Dane is certainly in the best form of his career as he prepares to take on Team INEOS' leading lights, Egan Bernal and Geraint Thomas.

Victory at last month's Criterium du Dauphine, where Chris Froome suffered the serious injuries that ruled him out of competing for a fifth Tour crown, represented the continuation of a fine season for Fuglsang.

Prior to that success, he had performed superbly in the Ardennes Classics in April, following up podium finishes in the Amstel Gold Race and La Fleche Wallonne with a superb win in the Liege-Bastogne-Liege.

That triumph marked a first for Fuglsang in one of cycling's Classics. 

With Froome absent from the Tour and uncertainty over the form and fitness of defending champion Thomas, Fuglsang will now hope to mount a strong challenge for his sport's biggest prize.

He could only muster a 12th-placed finish at the Tour when leading Astana in 2018. However, Fuglsang told Cyclingnews: "If I compare now to last year, I think I'm more relaxed this year."

In an interview with Eurosport, he added: "I had such a good season until now that, for me, if the Tour goes all pear-shaped, then anyway I had my best season so far, the best season in my career."

Asked if he believes he can reach Paris wearing the yellow jersey in three weeks' time, Fuglsang offered a cautious reply befitting a veteran rider who knows just how tough the Tour is.

"For now, I don't think I have to really believe yet," he explained. "I believe that I can finish on the podium, but I think we have to finish some mountain stages before the real belief can be there.

"We will see, it's a long race. I think the pressure can come on once you get closer to Paris, but that's a long way [away]."

Given his performances in recent months, it would be no shock if Fuglsang is in contention right up until the end.

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