Amund Grøndahl Jansen made his Hammer Series debut in Hong Kong last season, and will be back for more in his home country of Norway at Hammer Stavanger (24-26 May). We speak to him about his season so far, why Hammer Series is special, his targets for the rest of 2019 and more:
How did you find your Hammer Series debut, in Hong Kong last year?
It was very hard, very intense, especially because we had two races in one day. So it was really hard, but it was fun. Hammer Series is something that stands out on the calendar, it’s a special event, and it’s always interesting. I’ve raced in Stavanger quite a bit before, and it will be interesting to try Hammer again in my home country.
You’ve had a busy season so far: can you pick out the best moment?
The first two stages of Paris-Nice, which we won with Dylan Groenewegen, were very special. We rode really well as a team. Also in Gent-Wevelgem we rode really well. Personally I was close to making a really good result there, but it was just a very nice day, when all of the team raced really well. It was a spectacular race.
And the toughest day you’ve had so far?
Gent-Wevelgem was also the hardest day of the season so far. I think it must be the hardest race I’ve ever done. It was something really special. There was a lot of wind, it was a long day with a lot of echelons and twisting and turning. Then in the end we had the climbs … you could tell all the riders were broken in the last hour of racing.
Hammer Series is a different challenge to those gruelling one-day Classics …
It’s very different because in the Hammer Series you don’t really deal with fatigue - you just deal with maximum efforts. Your tank never runs empty, but you can blow up. So it’s a very different kind of effort. It’s more painful at Hammer Series because you really taste the blood in your mouth, you have to do repeatedly do all-out efforts over a short period of time.
In one-day races you eventually fatigue, along with everyone else, the pace drops and it’s more about who’s mentally capable of doing another effort, not so much what your maximum capacity is.
Did you learn about Hammer tactics in Hong Kong?
It’s something you have to adjust to because it’s very different. In Hong Kong we had a short parcours on the sprint stage. I learned quickly that you can’t sprint every lap: eventually that would not be sustainable. You have to pace it, and try to make the most of points when you can, for the least amount of effort.
Last season brought your debut Tour de France - what are you best memories of that race?
It was certainly something special: the amount of people watching, the amount of media following the race. It’s one of the few races that’s really big in Norway with the mainstream media.
In the race itself, you compete with the same teams in the WorldTour throughout the year, but at the Tour it’s another level. Everyone’s prepared as well as possible, there is no-one who comes to the race for training, no-one who comes who is not 100 per cent.
You really feel it’s a level higher than the rest of the year, and due to the stress in the race, and every stage has something special, every stage you have to fight for your position. In other races you’ll have an easy day now and then.
Do you feel your first Grand Tour made you stronger?
In the long-term view I think it has made me a bit stronger. In the Autumn that followed I was quite tired and I think you really need to have a good recovery period to really benefit from a Grand Tour - at least the first one.
After a couple of weeks, I really got tired after the Tour, and that continued for the rest of the Autumn. But when I started training again in October, after my vacation, I felt at a higher level. You go down, then you bounce back higher.
If you could take a quality from one team-mate, who would it be and why?
I have a lot of really strong team-mates but I’m very impressed, I must say, by Dylan Groenewegen. I’ve been racing against him since I was a junior, and it’s very impressive to see what a big improvement he’s made since then. He’s working very hard for it, he’s an incredible sprinter.
Now he’s really getting into the spotlight as one of the best sprinters in the world, maybe he’s been a bit under-estimated in the last three years, but now he’s showing that he’s probably the best sprinter out there.
Who is the funniest guy on the Jumbo-Visma team?
Last year we had Bram Tankink, and he made everyone laugh all the time. Now that he’s retired, maybe Pascal Eenkhorn is the one who’s taken over from Bram.
After Stavanger, what will be your big targets for the rest of the season?
The big thing that’s coming is the Tour de France, for me and for the team. That’s the only big real, huge goal for the coming period. For myself, I have my eyes also set on the World Championships in Yorkshire, where I want to perform well. So I want for sure to have a good Tour with the team, as a team player, and for the Autumn I’d like to benefit from the hard month of July to reach a good level for the Worlds.
Which will be your strongest event in Stavanger?
I haven’t really looked at the courses and it’s not the hilliest area, so maybe I can maybe pick up points in the Hammer Climb.
It’s a bit mischevious to call the second event the ‘Hammer Sprint’, because you have to sprint to many times, it’s not really for the big sprinters.
In the Hammer Sprint you actually have to have really good endurance to be able to pick up points consistently on each lap. That’s the way you pick up the most points, by being consistent, and I think that’s where I can perform the best.