Tobias Foss is the next big U23 rider from Norway that is hoping to go pro. The climber finished 7th overall in the Tour de l’Avenir, 12th in the U23 Peace Race and scored a win in the best young rider category at his home race, the Tour of Norway, against the pros.
After spending the 2017 season with Joker-Icopal, the 20-year-old is making the move from Joker to the Uno-X Norwegian Development Team, a squad that will allow him to develop further and, all being well, make the step up to the WorldTour in 2019.
Tobias took some time during his offseason to discuss a wide variety of topics with U23 Cycling Zone in an exclusive interview, allowing readers to get to know a rider who can really perform well in some of the biggest U23 stage races next year.
“I started doing biathlon when I was 10 years old,” Foss tells U23 Cycling Zone when asked how he got into the sport. “I always had a passion and interest for cycling, so when a friend of mine in the biathlon club introduced me to the local cycling club it all began. I got to borrow a nice road bike and started racing mountain bike and on the road bike.”
Tobias was very pleased, as you might expect, with his 2017 season. However, he revealed his year could have been even better, had a concussion not ruled him out of some bigger races and prevented him from achieving results in the opening part of the year.
“All in all, it was a nice season. I hoped for better results in the spring, but a brain concussion made my shape bad for the first half of the season. So, my second half saved the season and it became a good one I think.”
Foss performed really well at the Tour de l’Avenir, despite the fact the race didn’t have a time trial, a real strength of Tobias’s. A rider who can climb and TT is a rider who will be very successful when it comes to challenging for GCs, and Foss spoke a little bit about his strengths.
“My biggest strength is my engine. I am not the most aero person on the TT, but if the TT is hard I do well. I do well in hills as well, but I have not raced so many hilly races. I think I am a bit better uphill than in the TT just because of my position. I am not the lightest rider so I have the power to ride faster in TT, I just have to work on the position a bit more.”
One of the real benefits of racing for Joker is that Foss was granted access to races like the Tour of Norway, Tour des Fjords and Arctic Race, which allows both himself and other youngsters on local teams to compete against seasoned WorldTour pros, a sure-fire way to test their level. However, Joker did not compete in some big U23 stage races like Giro U23, Giro Valle d’Aosta and Ronde de l’Isard. Tobias talked the pros and cons of being able to race against the pros in Norway, and the limitation of missing those big international U23 events.
“I think it is important. It gives a lot of nice experiences and to ride with the big guys is every boy’s dream, so it is a huge motivation boost as well. However, I wish I had raced those U23 events this season. I think I could have made some nice results for myself, but I have also developed other sides of myself in other races. But next year I will race with Uno-X and then I will race those races and hopefully get some nice results.”
That brought us neatly on to Uno-X. the squad specialises in developing riders and has secured riders like Foss, Norwegian U23 Road Race champion Anders Skaarseth and talented junior time triallist Andreas Leknessund as their big names for 2018. So, what prompted Tobias to move teams, from a Conti team to a Devo team, and did he have the chance to go pro?
“I don’t feel ready to take the pro step yet, so I made the choice before L’Avenir and didn’t want any Pro Continental or WorldTour contract. I need done more season, at least, to develop my engine and brain to be able to take the WorldTour step nicely. I have not been in contact with any team so the decision was not that hard.”
In recent years, for every Edvald Boasson Hagen or Alexander Kristoff, we have seen a lot of Norwegian and Danish riders go pro and not be able to handle racing at that level. In recent seasons, Denmark has begun to produce some promising youngsters, but Norway is still struggling, with minimal impact made by the likes of Kristoffer Skjerping and Sven Erik Bystrom at this point in their pro careers. Why does Tobias think there has been an issue for his compatriots emulating the likes of Kristoff and Boasson Hagen and some of the retired Norwegian greats?
“Hm, it’s hard to say. Edvald Boasson Hagen, Kurt Asle Arvesen and Thor Hushovd have been the best pros we have got in the last 10 years, and they have been pretty good. But we have never had a good GC rider. There are a lot of youngsters who turned pro recently. I guess it is with Norway as it is with the rest of the world in cycling, but Norway don’t have all the riders for example of Italy or France, so it is hard to get a GC rider up there with the best WorldTour riders.”
Tobias has a real ambition if he can make it as a pro, stating his belief that his TT and climbing ability make him suited to stage racing and the young man has a clear goal in his mind at which race he wants to win most as a pro, allowing him to set a new record if he can achieve it:
“If I could win any race, it would be the Tour de France. I have a huge dream of becoming the first Norwegian to win the Tour de France.”
Tobias Foss is a genuine talent who has the potential to not just be successful in 2018 at the U23 level, but his ability as a climber and time triallist make him an ideal candidate to go pro and be a successful stage racer. Whether he can do this or not is another thing, but Foss, on paper, has the talent and the drive to be really successful in the future. He could be Norway’s next big star.
U23 Cycling Zone would like to thank Tobias for taking part in the interview and wish him the best of luck for 2018 and beyond. You can follow Tobias on Twitter at @Tobias_S_Foss.