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Steff Cras: "Tour de France is my main goal for 2024"

Updated: Dec 1, 2023

"Something always seems to go wrong at the wrong time." After a lot of bad luck in the first half of the 2023 season Steff Cras was forced to abandon Tour de France as well while being placed 13th in GC. Despite that, he worked his way back to an 11th place in the general classification of La Vuelta. We spoke with the Belgian rider about dealing with bad luck, his cycling journey so far and his goals for the 2024 season.

© TotalEnergies

For the people who don't really know you: Who is Steff Cras?


Steff Cras: "I am a 27-year-old Belgian born in Geel and currently living in Herentals. I have been a professional cyclist for six years now. Stage races are my favourite on the cycling calendar, especially the Grand Tours. I would love to target these in the future."



You rode for Lotto Soudal from 2020 until the end of 2022. How do you look back on your time at the team?


"I had a really good time there. It were three amazing years. The atmosphere, the teammates, the staff were all nice. There was no sign for me to ever leave the team but in the end they didn't want to extend my contract."



Were there any other teams interested in you before you decided to join TotalEnergies?


"There were some other teams interested, yes. At that point in my career I still wanted to see how far I could go on my own instead of becoming a domestique. What factored into this decision as well was the amount of bad luck that I suffered during the Covid years."


"I actually held some talks with Quick-Step and a few other teams. Although, I never considered to go to a different team after holding talks with TotalEnergies as they went excellent. The team wanted to give me the time to grow. That is one of the main reasons I chose them."



What are your thoughts on the working environment in a French team?


"A French team is certainly a different atmosphere than other European teams. Within a French team you have the feeling we are all one big family. Everyone feels very happy even if we are not succeeding. Nobody is ever angry. In terms of the scientific aspect of a cycling team, they could be considered to be just slightly behind the European teams."


"Within TotalEnergies they’re working so hard to improve on that side of things. They take on a lot of personal feedback as well. It won’t be instant improvement, but it will be there within a few years. The team has invested a lot of money and hard work into improving the performances and nutrition. We now have full time chefs and new trainers which all will have a positive impact on the results."


© Agence Zoom

Will this winter’s approach be different for you compared to the past years?


"Last year was a little bit of a mess for me. It had a lot to do with the planning side of things. I had to go to the United States to visit Specialized at a pretty bad moment just before team camp. I ended up missing a lot of training because of it. The planning is much better this winter. I hope I can have a good couple of winter months. An altitude camp has already been confirmed for early January which I think is revolutionary for a French team."


An altitude camp has been confirmed for early January, which is revolutionary for a French team

You started your 2023 season at the end of January in Argentina. Why did you opt for such an early start?


"It wasn't the best of plans to go to Argentina last year. I wanted to start the season early because the season prior ended very early after a crash in La Vuelta. Because of that I had a really long winter. In the end it didn't turn out to be a good plan to start that early. The experience was great overall, but I don’t think I will go back to Argentina in my career. I got sick there and the racing efforts were pretty low."



You had a lot of bad luck during the first half of the 2023 season. How did you cope with that?


"Mentally it was really tough. I worked hard to achieve a good level of performance at the start of the season, but after I got sick in Argentina I was in bed for two weeks. Maybe I pushed a little too hard to get back for Tirreno-Adriatico. My immune system was simply not ready for the race. After that I trained for three weeks towards Itzulia Basque Country. Everything was going well in the race. I was on track for a good result, but at the end of stage 3 I had a horrible mechanical. My GC result was gone."


"I kept working hard afterwards and set my goals for further down the season. In Critérium du Dauphine the story continued. I was in good shape and all was going well until I crashed during the second stage. I broke two bones in my hand. Another goal out of the window. On top of that the chances to be at the start of Tour de France decreased drastically, but my coach told me to go home, recover and train. He was right after all, I was ready for the Tour just in time."



You've had multiple setbacks the past years too. Did you ever think about ending your career?


"I did in 2021. I was thinking about it after I caught Covid in the Volta Ciclista a Catalunya. I had a really hard time after that. I struggled until the national championships of that season. I truly considered to stop my career if I didn't get any better."



Is there a mental coach in the team or do you have one yourself?


"I have had my own mental coach from very early on in my career. There was this project from Belgian Cycling with U23 riders in 2016. I had the coaching all the way until last year. It was important for me to have a mental coach as early on in my career I used to put too much pressure on myself."


It was important for me to have a mental coach as I used to put too much pressure on myself

How proud were you to be at the start of the Tour de France for a French team in 2023?


"It was pretty amazing. The Tour de France is the biggest event of the year for the team. It was a cool experience. A few weeks before the race I had no idea if I was going to be able to participate as I was training in a brace to protect my fractures."


"I didn't feel any pressure at all during the Tour as all of the attention went to Peter Sagan. We aimed for a stage win as a team and we would see where I would end up. As the days went on, I felt better and better. All went good until the incident..."



How did you feel after the crash caused by the spectator?


"The moment after the crash I was furious. Luckily I was in an ambulance as it took a lot of hours afterwards to calm me down. When it comes to my post on X, I felt I had nothing to lose and I wanted to voice my opinion."



You got sick during La Vuelta. How hard was it to keep going?


"It was not nice at all. I was thinking it's the story of my life. Something always has to go wrong at the wrong time, but the team helped me a lot. I thought I would lose a lot more time in the individual time trial, but the day after I felt horrible. Luckily the peloton made it an easy day. My illness was over before the queen stage, so I was ready for Tourmalet just in time."


Something always has to go wrong at the wrong time. I was thinking it's the story of my life

What did you feel like when you reached Madrid?


"It was a big relief after I finished. I wasn’t that bothered about my GC position but actually that I managed to finish. That was a big goal for me. I was really happy to give the team something back after the good GC result as they always believed in me. The same can be said about my family. For now I'm hoping the bad luck will have come to an end."



What does the 2024 team look like?


"The team’s roster is complete. We will have 23 riders for the season so we will skip a few smaller races in the calendar in order to make sure we are fresh and prepared for the big races."



What will be your main goal next season?


"The Tour de France is going to be my main goal, so the approach is going to be quite similar to the way we approached it this year. The only difference is that I will start my season later. I don't want to put a potential result on it when it comes to the Tour. I just want to have a stable Tour de France and finish with the feeling I gave my all. The biggest goal after all might be to have less bad luck."

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