Mikkel Bjerg: UAE Team Emirates is the best place for me to develop into a top rider

This week's column is from the 21-year-old Dane, who explains why he joined the team and his hopes for the delayed season and beyond

UAE Team Emirates cyclist Mikkel Bjerg. bettiniphoto / UAE Team Emirates
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This is my first season with UAE Team Emirates and my first season on the World Tour stage. It’s been a smooth transition so far, even with the four-month hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic, but we are finally back riding and I can’t wait to get started again in August!

Our team manager, Matxin Fernandez, was a big reason why I joined the team. He said that I was one of the hottest prospects in the world when it comes to the time trials, which for me, was a huge compliment from a man that I respect a lot. It gives me a lot of confidence and motivates me to perform well for the team.

At just 21, I am one of the youngest in the team, but we have a great mix of experience and have a very professional and strong squad that can compete in every race. It motivates me to be surrounded by guys who I look up to and who share the same winning mentality I have. We really do believe we can go into any race and win which creates a fantastic atmosphere.

I won the 2018 and 2019 UCI Road World Under-23 Championships in Innsbruck, Austria and Yorkshire, UK which were both unbelievable experiences. To win one was always a dream, to win two was amazing. It’s a big step to the World Tour stage but my wins in the Under-23 Championships have given me a great foundation to build on.

My biggest dream is to win the World Championships. I watched fellow Dane Mads Pedersen win the World Championships last year and it gave me goosebumps, I was speechless!

That would be a race, that if you retired the day after and looked back at your career, you would have still accomplished a lot more than a lot of the pros in the peloton who have been competing for 10 years.

For me personally, the time trial at the World Championships or maybe the Olympics Games are realistically the biggest accomplishments that I could achieve.

The Classics are also special for me. These are the races where I believe that one day, I could compete with the very best. I’ve still got a long way to go and there is a lot of work ahead, but I am very happy with my current situation and I’m in the best team for my development and my career.

UAE Team Emirates show great interest in the development of young riders and it is exciting to be part of a World Tour team characterised by a base of experienced riders and some of the best talents of this generation like Jasper Philipsen, Tadej Pogacar and Brandon McNulty. These are all really exciting young riders and I couldn't be part of a better team. The young riders all work together and are always motivating one another to be better.

As this is my first year on the World Tour stage and my first year with UAE Team Emirates, my goal for the season is to learn and continue to improve in both the road races and in the time trials. I started the season this year at the Santos Tour Down Under in Australia, which now feels a long time ago!

I was able to ride with my good friend and teammate, Jasper Philipsen, in Australia which was great. We rode together two years ago with a different team and now we are teammates again. It’s not always easy joining a new team but having friends here already has made it extremely easy to settle in well.

Strangely enough, Australia was my first and last race in 2020, so I am very excited to get back on the bike and start competing again. This has not been your usual season! That’s why I can’t wait to get back racing with the team as I am missing it a lot. Especially being on the road with the boys, pinning on my number and working with the staff - I miss the adrenaline!

I’ve been working harder than ever in training during lockdown and have watched a lot of bike races on my laptop, studying them. I am super motivated and want to do the UAE proud on our return!