Having raced for the development team this season, Johannes Kulset moves to the Uno-X Pro Cycling Team in 2024. Norway's young and talented climbing sensation recently joined the Watts Under The Hood podcast to discuss his cycling career so far, his goals for next season and his future career aspirations.
How did you get into cycling?
Johannes Kulset: "I have three older brothers who are currently pro or have been pro. Having them around me has sort of been my way into cycling. My eldest brother started cycling when he was 16 and my father cycled before, but we weren’t really a cycling family. Suddenly, the ball just went rolling. My second oldest brother started cycling, then the third and when I was 14, I did a few races. When Covid-19 kicked off it was really natural for me to get into cycling as I wasn’t training in the sports I was playing. But now I’m happy my effort to commit to cycling really paid off!"
Why did you only ride small local races as a first-year Junior?
"In the first part of 2021, there weren't many races around due to Covid as in Norway the restrictions were very strict. I actually did ride Course de la Paix along with the Giro della Lunigiana. Course de la Paix was really new to me. I was too scared and wasn’t confident enough. The race didn’t go very well but I was happy as my teammate Per-Strand Hagenes won. At Giro della Lunigiana I actually won the youth jersey as a first-year Junior. Despite that, it was hard being a Junior as all of the Junior years were affected by Covid."
It was hard being a Junior as all of the Junior years were affected by Covid
What happened in 2022, your second year as a Junior?
"Tour Du Pays de Vaud in Switzerland sorted me really well. If you take a look at the top ten of the general classification, you will see it is full of the best Juniors. Everyone was going full gas for the win and I ended up beind second behind Jan Christen. Two weeks later I actually caught Covid at LVM Saarland Trofeo (stage race, red.). I felt pretty good the first days, thinking I was going to win. During the second stage I entered a strong breakaway with a lack of GC riders. After that I started to feel awful and did a really poor individual time trial. I was sick for two weeks and couldn't race the national championships."
"The European Championship Road Race went relatively okay during the second week of July. Jorgen Nordhagen finished second, so we were really happy for the federation after all the hard work that was put in. One week later I had a big crash during the second to last stage of Ain Bugey Valromey Tour. I suffered really heavily with my back after that, so some big races went horribly afterwards."
"That year we had two really strong riders from Norway being myself and Jorgen Nordhagen, so whoever went into the right move we rode for. Overall, I was actually really happy with all the races I competed in that year considering the circumstances I faced."
This year you rode among the big guys at Tour of the Alps. Were you surprised by your performances there?
"I wouldn’t say it was that much of a surprise but at the same time I was sitting near Geraint Thomas on the general classification (14th overall, red.). I thought 'wow this is crazy'. My team knew for sure what I could do after seeing my test results in pre-season and things like that."
What adversity did you overcome in 2023?
"On the last stage of this years La Route d’Occitanie I suffered a heavy crash. I broke three ribs and an ankle, but I still kept on training. It was extremely painful for the first few weeks, especially the first three days. It was pain I have never felt before in my life. I was really lucky where my ankle broke as it broke on the top and side."
"With cycling shoes, it was bearable to ride with it. I couldn’t walk properly but to cycle it was okay. I targeted the Sibiu Cycling Tour a few weeks later, so I was just training to achieve the best performance despite the pain. I felt really proud of myself for overcoming the pain."
I don't set any result goals, I actually set myself power goals
How did the Tour de l’Avenir feel?
"Before the race, with our team we thought we were going to win the race. But unfortunately, it didn’t turn out the way we expected as we had a few crashes including one where our whole team went down. The Tour de l’Avenir is the one race where everyone wants to shine. That makes it dangerous. Mentally as a team we were a bit down after all of the crashes we faced."
How big do you think you can grow as a rider?
"If I can grow as much as I did at the start of 2023 that would be pretty awesome. It would mean I have taken another big step. I don’t set any result goals, I actually set myself power goals. I produced 370W as my 30-minute peak during a club race for my school. I think it turns out to something like 6.3 W/kg. I want to see how much I can improve my time specific performances. In the results side of setting goals, it’s actually pretty hard as all of my races are considerably harder now as I am professional. You do have to see the start list before you set out these goals. I just would like to judge my performances and take it step by step."
Tour de l'Avenir is the one race where everyone wants to shine. That makes it dangerous
How good is the Uno-X project?
"I’ve known the team for years. My brother, Kristian, was on the team when it was formed in 2017. I’ve seen the team grow in front of my eyes even before I started my cycling journey. The leaders of the team are all so great to us. They trust us a lot. The team feels like home, all the guys are like a family especially when you are all from Norway and Denmark. The setup and equipment is simply next level."
Watch the full Watts Under The Hood episode with Johannes Kulset:
Photos © Johannes Kulset