By Mikael Kyneb
A BT Newspaper journalist started his report on the media presentation of Team fakta, held in Vejle last week, with the following words: "They talked about a fantastic solidarity and it wasn't just talk. You actually could see it on these guys - the bright faces, the lights in the eyes told us everything. These 16 hopeful riders who sat together on the scene for the traditional Team photo form a real close-knit team."
Indeed, one could really get a taste of true team spirit, this thanks to the commitment of all involved. There was festive feeling; everybody was cheerful, even a Scott Sunderland on crutches didn't let his injury stand in the way of a fun day with the rest of the team.
More than likely that great atmosphere was also a logical consequence of the fact that Team fakta started the 2002 season on a high note. The hard work the Team fakta riders put in over winter was rewarded when the first UCI rankings for 2002 were published: Team fakta is currently leading Second Division with 227 Points.
Freshly recruited neo-pro Lars Back, Jacob Moe Rasmussen, Rene Jørgensen and Magnus Backstedt were all smiles and posed proudly while putting their arms around the new teammates.
Rene Jørgensen finished 4th in Tour de Langkawi in Malaysia earlier this month. It is his best result ever, and he seems to have found his real playing ground. He could be one of the big surprises Team fakta have in store for his year.
Jacob Moe Rasmussen
Jacob Moe Rasmussen also knows what it takes: while two years ago he appeared to be one of the new generation of big hitters in Danish cycling, his year with CSC-Tiscali finished with damaged spirit and low motivation. He wasn't pleased at all; although he had been working hard for the team he didn't get any results himself. With Team fakta, Jacob will have the chance to turn things around. Of course he will have to be a team player; but he will also get the opportunity to pay attention to his own palmares.
The winner of a stage in Tour de France; Magnus Bäckstedt, certainly can be regarded as the biggest asset Team fakta has acquired for this new season. The Swede has a renewed motivation and has rediscovered the aggressive attitude he had before, in 1998 and 1999. Magnus has had two disappointing seasons with Credit-Agricole, but things are definitely heading for a change. He recently wore the leader's jersey and finished 4th overall in Tour de Qatar in January and 6th in Italy.
Magnus: "I'm so motivated, I'm enjoying riding my bike every day - now I really have to tell myself: Magnus its time to go home. I didn't have that feeling for the last few years. I now have moved back to Belgium, and my wife and daughter moved with me, so this is like a new start again, and I really love it all."
"I did a lot of kilometres during the winter and my form is ideal to start the season with; I'm ready! I want to bring myself back into the top of cycling, so I will be very focused on the spring program, and hopefully I will be able to make some good results."
"This team seems better "organised" than the other teams I have been riding for. I'm not talking about the organisation of the management, at Credit Agricole that was perfect too; it's the communication between riders, directeurs sportifs and staff, which is incredible. There's this great spirit and we have become really good friends already. This alone will bring us a long way towards the results."
Jørgen Bo Petersen
The winner of last year's Tour of Luxembourg and Sachsen Tour appears more confident this year than he was last year.
Jorgen: "Last year I didn't have a contract at this time, now I am two month ahead of last year's preparation, so it is really looking good for me. I will try to win Tour of Luxembourg again, but there are plenty of other races to my liking. I do prefer the stage races. The Peace race, the Tour of Germany will be where I find my top form."
"There are also the Nationals, and CSC have won the time trial the last 5 years, but I'll attempt to ruin that for them this year! I was close last year, so you never know. We do also have a stronger fakta team for the road race at the Nationals, so maybe we will have the Danish champion in our team in late June!"
Kurt Asle Arvesen
Among Team fakta's other great Scandinavian riders is Kurt Asle Arvesen, "The big Norwegian." World Champion in 97 with the under 23's. Last year he became very consistent in his racing. He scored the most top 20 placings over the year.
"It looks like Kurt is ready to win more races because he had quite an development last year," said team director Kim Andersen: "He is fast and he can climb, I do expect a lot from Kurt this year."
Marcus Ljungqvist, the Swedish Champion
Marcus is a complete rider, he had an outstanding 2001 season and he is actually a fast guy, who can win the race in a sprint. Marcus is known to be a very professional rider and the team can always count on him.
According to team director Kim Andersen "Marcus took his racing to another level last year, and that made him a lot more confident. So I'm sure that he will go even further this year."
Scott Sunderland: "Captain on Crutches" optimistic!
The last rider joining the team on stage was Team Captain Scott Sunderland. Although we had seen him hopping around on crutches the whole morning, he left them backstage for the presentation and rode onto the podium on the new Principia bike, just like the rest of the team had done. Carefully avoiding putting any bodyweight on the injured right leg; he also had a friendly chat with the interviewer. Scott made it clear that he really believes in "his" team.
Scott :"I'm convinced we'll have a great year again. The team has had a good start to this season and we are aiming to pull these kind of results through to the end of 2002.
It's a fact that I won't be riding the Classics but when I look at the team I know we have a very strong squad ready for the months of March and April. It's just that this time, I'll have to sit back and let the other guys do all the work. I know they can make some great results. The other half of the team will be ready for the stage races in May, June and July. If all goes well, I'm hoping to be back in the peloton by the end of - maybe even mid - April."
When asked when we can expect his first results Scott mockingly answered: "Oh, I donno, by October, in the Sun Tour. No, seriously, I'm aiming to make up for lost time in May, June. There are plenty of races on the program then; that many even that Kim will have to turn down invitations for some of them. So, look for me by that time."
Kim Andersen, Team director
Fakta's team director Kim Andersen is held in high esteem by all of the team. His relaxed and peaceful nature has been one of the factors contributing to the success of Team fakta in 2001. All the riders speak fondly of him and you can feel that the good relationship he has with his riders is something he is proud of.
"Our main goal for this season is clear: The Team wants to finish first or second in 2nd division at the end of 2002; that way we can move directly into 1st division next year. It is going to be difficult for Team fakta to win more races than last year so we are aiming to win bigger races than last year - because we do have a stronger team this year."
"We will not just be participating in the races, we will be trying to animate and make the races. Team fakta is known for giving all the riders a possibility to make results and that is definitely what we will be doing," said Kim Andersen.
Peter Meinert, assistant team director added: "After my first season in the car instead of on the bike, I set out for my second season as an assistant sports director, with great optimism. We start the new season with almost the same group as in 2001, however reinforced in some areas. After having seen how almost all of these riders showed progress, guided by a highly motivated Scott Sunderland, there is no doubt about that this progress will continue in 2002. I look forward to watch their further advance. Apart from that, it will be exciting to watch how the new riders adjust to the team, so that they can also contribute to making a strong unit."
Peter Sejer Nielsen, team manager
Team fakta is currently still negotiating with extra co-/head sponsors for this year. The team manager Mr. Peter Sejer Nielsen is hoping to close a deal within the coming months.
"The team does receive around 1.5 million Euro from the current head sponsor, Danish supermarket chain fakta. But I have been in close negotiations with a few international companies over the winter and the only thing missing is the signature from one of these. Signing up a new sponsor will make the Team stronger financially for this year but the real aim is to be prepared for 1st division for 2003."
"Within the team we all agree on one thing: it is at this moment a lot better for us to be the leading team in Second Division than to struggle at the tail end of First Division."
To plan for the coming years, and to be able to talk to those riders the team is looking for early in 2002 is a priority for the Team fakta manager Peter Sejer Nielsen.
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