Usually, when a young rider leaves home for good to race in another country, there is often a time period where they must adapt to their new surroundings, and sometimes the results on the bike may suffer. After top Danish devo team Giant-Castelli closed their doors at the end of 2017, Rasmus Byriel Iversen took his talents to Italy and the General Store Bottoli team. Rather than suffer in his new surroundings, the Dane has blossomed, winning six races already this season.
Just before taking part in a big block of racing at the Peace Race and the Baby Giro, Rasmus answered some questions from U23 Cycling Zone about his season, so readers can get to know him better.
“So far my season has been great. It started poorly with crashes and sickness, but I kept working and started to win. So far, I have won six races, and it is much more than I expected for the whole season!”
What makes Rasmus win total so special is that he doesn’t have a speciality, as he is neither a climber, or a sprinter, or a time triallist. Instead, he is a rider who is good at a lot of different areas, and possesses real racing instincts. This is what has allowed him to be so successful.
“I wouldn’t say I’m a specific kind of rider. I enjoy races with smaller hills that aren’t too long. I’m too heavy for the mountains, and I’m not good in sprint finishes either, so a race with opportunities for breakaway is basically a good race for me, other than that I’m pretty all-round as a rider.”
As we touched on, Rasmus was part of Giant-Castelli last year, a team who have been responsible for some many of Denmark’s best young talents. As well as being home to top pros Rasmus Quaade and Emil Vinjebo, Rasmus had some strong U23 teammates, including U23 TT World Champ Mikkel Bjerg, former Junior World RR champ Jakob Egholm, Casper Pedersen, Frederik Rodenberg, Sergio Tu and Mattias Norsgaard. Rasmus explained what happened when the team sadly shut its doors.
“I really enjoyed the atmosphere on Giant-Castelli, so I was really sad when it closed. We were informed that the team didn’t have a new sponsor for next year, but they tried their best and I know they tried everything they could to find a sponsor, but it didn’t work out in the end.”
Italy seemed a brave move for Rasmus. He explained how his contract with the General Store team came about, and why he chose to uproot his life and move abroad, which has obviously paid huge dividends now just six months later.
“When the team closed I had two options: taking another year of working and have cycling as my second priority, or moving to Italy to focus 100% on cycling. In Italy, they offered me a place to live with food, bike and everything I basically need. I knew I had a lot of things I could do better, I knew it was possible for me to train harder without stress from working too much and sleeping too little. Other than that, I knew I could eat much healthier, and I think moving to Italy was the thing I needed to eat right, and all these things were the reason behind my crazy change. General Store gave me the opportunity, and I took it.”
So was Rasmus nervous about the big differences between Denmark and Italy? After all, the language, food, people and culture could not be more different between the two nations!
“Of course there are a lot of thoughts and things you have to live without when you move to a new country. I feared that I wasn’t able to take a step up and solving my problems with the food, and it was too hard mentally to enjoy. I also got a girlfriend before I moved, and I was afraid it wouldn’t work out between us and it would cause more stress and making me lose focus. But she has really been a big support for me, and she helps me a lot so it has really been the opposite in the end.”
So does he miss Denmark at all, or is he now an Italian? Of course he misses home, and is looking forward to going back to his homeland after this block of racing is over.
“I miss home a lot, but when everything is going great it is not a problem, it’s when the results are bad I feel bad outside the bike. When all you do in your life is cycling, it also controls your mood. But in the end, it’s a good thing for me, it makes me keep my focus. I have not been to Denmark since New Years, but I’m going home after the U23 Giro and I really look forward to it.”
Of course for an cyclist, a win is special, but with so many wins already this year, Rasmus must surely have a favorite?
“My favourite victory is my 5th victory I won in Toscana. It was near Siena and one of the climbs was a gravel road, both uphill and downhill. It was with 50km to go, and I attacked for the GPM-prize, I then continued downhill and found out I’ve made a good gap, so I took the chance and continued my attack, I kept the gap on the second hard climb, and made it to the finish alone. It’s my favourite victory because of the way I won it, and the previous winners are all strong riders on the WorldTour today (the race he speaks of counts Alexandr Riabushenko and Davide Formolo amongst its most recent winners, – ed.).”
So, we know where Rasmus’ next few races will be, but does he have any specific upcoming goal for these races, or is he taking each stage day by day?
“At the moment, I’m racing the peace race with the Danish national team, afterwards it is the U23 Giro before I go to Denmark to race the national championships. So far, those are my goals, but I don’t have a specific result, I just go full gas in every race and hope for the best. So far, I focus on these races and afterwards I make new goals.”
The 20-year-old is clearly very good on gravel roads, so it is no surprise that the only WorldTour race on gravel is the event he dreams most of winning as a pro rider.
“In the future, I dream of winning Strade Bianche, it’s an instant classic for me, and the most exciting race to watch. I think it is one of the hardest races in the world, and everything can happen all the way to the finish line. I would love to win it one day.”
In life, there are those who are risk takers, and those who are not. Sometimes you take a risk, and it backfires on you, other times you are rewarded handsomely. For Rasmus Byriel Iversen, he had a dream to be a full-time rider and he made a risky decision to move to Italy. But he has been set free at General Store Bottoli, and he has clearly been handsomely rewarded and is so deserving of all of his success. Rasmus is a rider with real balls, and he will be successful at any level, no matter what.
U23 Cycling Zone wishes to thank Rasmus for taking time ahead of a big block of tough racing to speak with us, and we wish him all the best for his upcoming races and the rest of the season. We also wish to thank General Store Bottoli press officer Alessandro Beghini for setting up the interview. You can follow the team on Twitter at @teamgstore, while Rasmus Twitter handle is @uffus.