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Kulset Chronicles: The Beginning

Over the course of the 2024 season Johannes Kulset will join us for a number of chats to discuss all things cycling. From analysing his performances in races, to learning insights into what it is like to be a part of the professional peloton at just nineteen years old. In this first article of the Kulset Chronicles series we learn more about the person that Johannes is as we chat about his life growing up, his personal goals, training plans and more.

© Pauline Ballet

Johannes, how did you get into cycling?

Johannes Kulset: "I actually started watching cycling when I was around six or seven years old with my eldest brother, who is now a sporting director at Uno-X Mobility. He made some 'TopTrumps' style cards for different bike riders which was always very fun. From that, I was always watching the Tour de France all summer long, dreaming of riding it myself one day. I started riding a bike with my dad when I was eleven years old, but didn't compete properly until I was fifteen. What really made me turn to cycling was around the time of Covid, when I was sixteen. This is where I could go 'full gas' into training as my dad had made my very own training plan in April 2020 for my birthday week."

What other sports did you play growing up in Norway?

"Cross-country skiing is a sport I did a little bit of but not full time compared to when I was eleven years old. One of the main sports I used to compete in, is a small Norwegian sport called 'bandy', which is very similar to ice hockey. It was a great experience as the team was great and I was the captain of the team, with us being two time Norwegian champions. Competing in Bandy meant that it took the ability away for me to compete in cross-country skiing, as both are winter sports. I did end up stopping any form of racing on skis at fourteen years old."

© Vegar Kulset

What was life like growing up in Oslo?

"It was and still is really nice. We live just on the western outskirts of the city so I don't feel the city centre life from here. There is a really nice climb nearby to where we live called the Tryvann, along with all the roads around me being so lovely to ride on."

Would you rather move out to Southern Spain or stay where you are?

"I would definitely stay in Oslo because I love my country. I personally don't see the need to move to another country but I wouldn't mind moving to somewhere else in Norway. My entire family is still all at home in the country."

If you had to pick one rider as your inspiration, who would you pick?

"I have to say Tadej Pogačar, even though I had the icons of Contador and Schleck growing up. His breakthrough at the 2019 La Vuelta and his victory at the Tour in 2020 had my jaw dropped. He is just so attacking, has fun riding his bike and is an amazing guy which is why I would have to choose him as my idol."

I hope one of our photographers at Volta a Catalunya will get a picture of me sitting on Pogačar's wheel

How was it racing in the Norwegian Junior scene?

"It was very good. We had Stian Fredheim, Per Strand Hagenes and others so the level was quite strong. In Norway we don't exactly have a big group of riders but our culture is pretty good so we are just going full gas from minute one all the time. Our parcours are not the hardest, so we kind of taken inspiration from the Danish riders where they go full gas from the start and the strongest wins. After 10 kilometres out of a group of 100 riders, we would have 10 left! Those 5 - 10 riders really push each other so I think that helped our development."

"As a first year junior, it was Per and Stian setting the tempo, compared to when I was in my second year as a junior where there was a really strong level of first years. But for me, I always want to make the race as hard as possible."

What is your favourite food before and after races?

"Before a race it has to be overnight oats with fruits or the team chef's omelette. On the team bus I like to eat a lot of sugar cakes to give me all that energy I need. After a race, especially after the last stage races, I eat a lot of pizza. I am not the biggest fan of rice so if it wasn't pizza it would be pasta pesto."

At the end of the 2024 season, when will you be a happy man?

"I will be very happy if I just continue improving my level. I feel that it is hard to set some specific goals. In terms of team goals I hope that we can be successful in winning a stage in this year's Tour de France. I am not sure if I will be there, but we are one big family so a stage win in the Tour is the ultimate goal."

What did you learn from the 2023 season?

"The main thing I learnt is just how brutal the pro peloton is. There is simply no stopping throughout and you have to be 100% focused all the way. Nowadays in modern cycling there are almost no 'easy days.' In Mallorca, this especially was the case where only thirty kilometres were easy and the rest was just full gas."

Do you think you could have gotten a podium in any of those three races in Mallorca?

"I could have been there but I am not saying I would have been there. I don't think I would have won though as the guys at the front especially Lennert Van Eetvelt were too strong for me. At the end of the day, it truly is about testing yourself in these early races."

Johannes Kulset in the Challenge Mallorca races.

How does the team think the Challenge Mallorca races went?

"I think we were very happy with the level of performances on the first three days, but the results were not that good. With the way we raced along with UAE Team Emirates, we were the ones who were setting the race on fire with our guys constantly attacking. As a ProTeam I think it is really cool that we just don't sit at the back and do nothing. We were really happy with the fourth place as well as Kristoff's second place finish which had a really good sprint train. It was overall a pretty nice week for the team."

Do you feel an immediate impact from the new riders acquired for this season?

"Everyone can see that the team is taking a lot of steps forward as we keep improving year by year. Last year with Alexander joining us, he really set the bar in terms of commitment, discipline and things like that to reach the top level. With the young classics guys to learn from Alexander is pretty amazing as he has done it all."

"With Andreas Leknessund and Magnus Cort joining us for this year, the selection for the biggest races is harder than ever within the team. You have to really work hard and get better to be in contention for those last places on the squad. We have a lot of great riders that will push each other forward I am sure of it."

"I feel like as the years have gone on, the average level of our riders keeps getting better and better. Not only is it the guys we have signed, but also the guys coming through our development team. The level they are at is crazy."

With Andreas Leknessund and Magnus Cort joining us, the selection for the biggest races is harder than ever

What is it actually like to be around a legend like Alexander Kristoff?

"He is such a friendly guy. It is just so easy to talk to him. I would be shocked to found out if he wasn't everyone's idol in the team. He certainly is for me. I watched his entire career really from being a small child watching races on television, to getting to race with him! I really look up to him and getting to race with him at nineteen years old is surreal."

What about the team's goals for 2024?

"Really it is to obtain as many UCI points as possible to set ourself up towards getting a WorldTour license. If we could be in the top two of pro teams, that would be pretty massive. Tobias said it really well in an interview in Mallorca where he said the Tour de France stage win was a big goal for the whole team. Even for the people who are not going to participate."

Have you looked at targeting any specific stage in the Tour?

"I have looked into the profiles of the stages a bit on VeloViewer, looking at the altitude metres and things like that. But I am not sure if I will be even participating in the race, so I think that I would be putting my mind on the wrong thing at the current time. I want to focus myself on performing well in the Volta a Catalunya and perhaps if I perform really good there after the Tour of Oman I can be in contention for the Tour team."

I have a real tight knit relationship with the Alpe d'Huez

"Alpe d'Huez is one specific stage I would love to win in my career, It is the most famous climb in cycling and I have loved it ever since I was watching the races as a kid. Obviously, if it was on the race this year it would instantly circled out for me with that being the one I want to win. I would go absolutely all in for that stage. But coming back to this year, I think that stage nine with the gravel sectors, suits Tobias really well. It is pretty punchy so it is definitely a great opportunity for him and the team. I would even say he would be one of the favourites for this stage in my opinion."

Where do you see yourself in five years time as a rider?

"I hope that I will be a proper complete rider being good at every aspect possible. Of course I wouldn't have won all the races on the calendar in five years but I hope to be one of the best riders in the peloton. As well as continuing to live my dream as I do now but whilst hopefully being better!"

To live your dream though, how does that actually feel?

"In some ways it does feel a bit surreal. I have literally just finished school where I was saying I will become a professional cyclist and now I am. From sitting at home training none stop, to resting and eating the right things. I really am a sports fanatic. I watch anything and everything sport related ever since I was a small child so it is just so cool to be apart of something so big."

Where specifically do you think you can most improve on the bike?

"My time trial ability can be improved. I am working on it at the moment, I have the power for time-trial's but it is applying that power on the time-trial bike that is the key. Apart from that, I just want to keep on improving everything as I am not the best in the world at any of them. Maybe in five years time I can look at one specific thing to focus on when it is a clear I can improve on it."

If you weren't a professional cyclist what would you want to do instead?

"I would definitely say I would be professional footballer for Rosenborg, in the Norwegian Eliteserien. It is the alternate dream of myself and that love of football has lead me to support Manchester United which is always fun."

How big of an inspiration is your father to you?

"He used to be my coach actually, but now he is basically a big motivator for me. He is my dad and probably my best friend so we are talking to each other everyday about anything such as a crash in the peloton to how the race was. We have a really good father and son relationship so it is really nice that he is so interested in cycling. My dad for sure will always be my biggest fan."

A data round up

How have you trained for the upcoming season?

"I have trained my base level endurance a lot. I decided to change my style from before in an effort to save my peak for races like in Mallorca where I am pretty far from my peak. I just want to find the right balance really so I am fresh for the entire year instead of being burnt out."

"I am doing around 18-25 hours of base level endurance and we just had a pretty hard camp with 40 hours squeezed into 8 days. Then there is just a lot of zone two and zone three rides."

What is your training like for the upcoming months?

"I will continue training the way I am now. We really believe in the strategy of a lot of endurance training. Of course I will do few more shorter, harder efforts up until Catalunya making sure the tank stays full."

That is a wrap up for the first part of the Kulset Chronicles. We will be catching up with Johannes after the Volta a Catalunya to review his and the teams race in greater detail. We also will be discussing what the rest of the season will look like.


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