John Ebsen: Reigning KOM returns from retirement to mix it up in Langkawi
Danish climbing specialist John Ebsen still keen to make mountains classification relevant once more and polka-dot jersey sexy again …
Cycling journeyman John Ebsen is not supposed to be on the start of the 23rd edition of Le Tour de Langkawi (UCI 2.HC) on Sunday. In fact, the still young 29-year-old Danish climbing specialist had already walked away from the sport last year to pursue his new role as the Asia sales chief for Factor Bikes.
However, a call from Malaysian standout Anuar Manan quickly changed all that and now the recently married Ebsen will join the 2010 Langkawi stage winner on the newly formed Malaysian-registerd UCI Continental team Forca-Amskins Racing.
“I actually retired,” Ebsen explained to Eurosport a day after the team presentation. “I was happy sitting in my little desk in the Factor office and then I got an offer from the Forca-Amskins team and they gave me an offer I couldn’t refuse and now I’m back.”
“Last year was fight every day because the gap was so narrow,” said Ebsen, who was racing for the Infinite AIS Cycling Team at the time. “It all came down to the last day because Sapura and Dimension Data were both in position to take it.
“But wining the mountains jersey was the greatest moment of my professional career. Some people may scoff that it was a small race in Asia, but it was still hors catégorie against WorldTour riders.
“For me, winning the jersey was a personal victory and when the team folded after Langkawi last year, I thought maybe it was time to step away from the sport and retire from racing professionally.”
Ebsen raced the Taiwan KOM last October, finishing third behind Oscar Pujol (Team UKYO) and Grand Tour triple crown winner and race victor Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain Merida)), who according to the Dane had some complimentary words in passing en route to the finish.
"When he caught me after 70 kilometres, he came straight out: ‘Damn, you are not easy to catch,’” claimed a smiling Ebsen as he recounted the encounter. “That was funny because that was not the point, the point was to make it hard for him."
For Ebsen, who became the first Danish rider to win Langkawi’s mountains jersey, the win was much more than just some second tier classification prize.
“The mountains jersey has lost perspective in many races, it’s just a ‘whatever’ jersey,” he explained. “When you think back in the old days there was prestige in winning these jerseys. You had Laurent Jalabert and some real proper climbers. The only thing they could do was climbing.
“Today it’s all about GC and you need to be a good all-rounder and you don’t see the pure climbers [anymore],” Ebsen continued. “I see myself trying to have that pure climber look and at least go for that.”
As for what this week’s race holds, Ebsen admits there is definitely a target on his back and he will not be able to sneak up on anyone. But that will not detour the 2012 Tour of Singkarak (2.2) stage winner from not making it easy for anyone trying to beat him.
“For sure it’s going to be challenge,” he admitted. “We will just take it as it goes. There’s a new challenge in every race. Last year I tried to go for the GC and it didn’t pan out, so I ended up going for the mountain jersey. Maybe this year I go for a stage — you never know. You are definitely going to see me.”