Steff Cras has ridden under the radar this year but has shown very impressive performances. After several years with Lotto Dstny, the Belgian moved away in search of more opportunities and leadership, and looks to seize the chance he's got with TotalEnergies despite a difficult year.
"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," Cras said of his current lineup, in an interview with Domestique. "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." However, he tells that the ProTeam is working on improvements constantly, and his run-up to the 2024 season includes an altitude in January which is revolutionary for the team.
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This is in search of results. The team, that aspire a possible World Tour position - but also wildcards - look to score throughout the year and the 27-year old is one of their best cards. 2023 was a complicated year for him however, having suffered with illnesses throughout the first half of the season. Mechanicals and crashes also wrecked some of his attempts to perform in stage-races, but despite suffering fractures at the Criterium du Dauphiné he went on to perform quite strongly in the first week of the Tour de France, sitting close to the Top10 until stage 8 where he crashed out of the race after a fan did not get out of the way of the peloton.
"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," Cras explains. "As the days went on, I felt better and better. All went good until the incident. 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... 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."
The Belgian luckily did not suffer fractures in that occasion and prepared for the Vuelta a Espana, where he fell ill again, but performed in the most important stages and rode consistently to an 11th spot on the overall classification. A rider who can contest the Grand Tours, he has that as his main goal for the 2024 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."