Kasper Asgreen made a rare appearance in a US cycling event in the remote area of northwest Arkansas on Saturday, clad in his QuickStep-AlphaVinyl pro kit alongside hundreds of amateurs at Little Sugar Gravel, the short-distance route offered at the Big Sugar Gravel event.
As he and teammate Mattia Cattaneo had cups of coffee before the drop of the green flag at Little Sugar Gravel, they showed no sign of anxiousness or stress after a long road season.
This was more of a holiday.
“We were out for a little ride yesterday, 50 kilometres, and the roads are super cool. I really see why gravel is so big over here. It’s super nice,” the 2021 Tour of Flanders winner told Cyclingnews at the start of the 50-mile gravel event, which is part of Big Sugar Gravel and the final stop of the LifeTime Grand Prix series.
“Me and Mattia Cattaneo will be doing the Little Sugar ride. Ilan [Van Wilder]is not starting, he has a problem with his knee, unfortunately, which makes any kind of ride he was supposed to do impossible.”
The trio of QuickStep riders made the stop in Bentonville, Arkansas two days ago for a chance to ride the new Specialized Diverge STR gravel bikes, and the stop was not on the regular calendar.
“When they send me the ticket, I looked it up,” Asgreen said about not being familiar with Big Sugar and the Life Time Grand Prix series. “And yeah, it looks nice, especially with the whole series running from the beginning of the year. It seems like a nice concept and a lot of people turned out.”
The young Dane vaulted into the international spotlight in 2021 with two one-day Classics victories across one week, the E3 Saxo Bank Classic followed by Flanders. He went on to win the Danish time trial championship and then finished seventh in the ITT at Tokyo Olympic Games. This year he was third at Strade Bianche.
The stop in Arkansas is a bit of a holiday for Asgreen, since the last time he raced in the US was at the Tour of California in 2019, winning the points classification. He does not mind if he is back under the radar among the gravel crowd.
“Yeah, we had a couple ride alongs yesterday, and a few people tagged along and said hi,” he said about the majority of the US crowd not recognising him or Cattaneo. “Since Flanders it’s been a bit different for me with a lot more attention and a lot more obligations with sponsors and stuff like that. But yeah, I enjoy it. It comes with the success, so I take it as a compliment.”
The QuickStep contingent now heads to Morgan Hill, California for wind tunnel testing of time trial equipment at Specialized headquarters and then stops in Los Angeles to visit Oakley.
“It’s a pleasure because we have the opportunity to see some places that not usually we can go and have some fun. It’s not like one race, but it’s like one day of fun training. But it’s part of the job and we do this with pleasure, for sure,” Cattaneo added, returning to the US for a second gravel event, having completed the Belgian Waffle Ride Kansas last year.
“It’s always good that you can discover some place new. Racing gravel? You never know.”