Barcelona“I’m looking forward to starting this edition of the Tour of Catalonia, I hope the weather will be better than last time,” says Torstein Træen (Hønefoss, Norway, 1995). The UNO-X Team cyclist is looking forward to a new edition of the Catalan round, which saw him grow during the past year. “I was at my best, the 9th place I got meant a lot to me,” he admits. Trained in the team’s development categories, he made the jump in 2020 to the professional discipline, where he became one of the great hopes of local cycling. “Last season, after Catalonia and the Tour of the Alps, I had bigger things in mind,” he explains. But when he got a call after a routine doping test, his life took a turn. “They told me I could be seriously ill. I thought it would be nothing, but then I was diagnosed with testicular cancer,” he recalls. A few months later he is back competing thanks to an operation that removed the tumor, but he is no longer the same as he was a year ago.
“Physically I didn’t suffer much, the problem was more mental”, comments the cyclist. From that call to the time of the operation, six weeks passed, where everything happened in Træen’s head. “The worst thing was the wait, it’s a horrible experience. Those moments when you don’t know it will be yours, if you’ll be able to compete again… it’s very hard to go through that,” he remembers excitedly. Luckily, the testicular cancer he was suffering from was detected in time and the surgery was a complete success. After various tests, it was confirmed that the cancer was completely gone, which meant that she did not have to go through chemotherapy. “It was a happy moment because that meant I could compete again after a short time. I could even exercise at home,” he explains to this newspaper.
His return, however, was not overnight. Although the cancer was minimally invasive, the cyclist’s physical condition was affected. “It’s not like having a cold or getting sick. Even if the whole process went well, it took me a while to recover physically and mentally”, he admits. After the surgery, she was able to get on her bike after two weeks, but it was only the beginning of a long road. “It took me more than a month to compete, and another to feel comfortable running”, he explains as he remembers what his pillars were in those months. “It was a fateful coincidence, my partner was injured on those dates, too. We were both at home without being able to go out on bikes. It was very hard, but at the same time we were lucky to be together”, he says. His team also supported him. “We are not a team, I would rather say a family. We all support each other, it’s great. And not only with colleagues. Director, doctors and team workers, we are all one”, he says smiling. He rode again in the summer at the Baltic Chain Tour in Estonia, but the results didn’t come until the winter at the Tour de Malaysia. “I finished third overall, fighting with great climbers. Now I feel ready to return to the Volta a Catalunya”, he says with conviction.
Cancer has changed his perspective on living life
“Now I feel younger”, he comments while laughing. The UNO-X Team, a team characterized by ensuring the national talent of the northern countries with Danish and Norwegian riders, bets on promising young cyclists, and Træen’s case is no exception. “I’m 27 now, but I feel like I’m a lot younger. In the team is Tobias Foss, who is 22, and I tell him every day that I feel younger than him”, he comments. For the Norwegian, age is just a number, as another teammate who has signed for the Nordic team this year also proves. “Alexander Kristoff (35 years old) is an example for all of us. He has a vitality and strength that everyone envies, and look at his age. We learn from him every day”, he says. After his life experience, Træen reflects on the importance of being a leader: “I try to learn from Kristoff, who radiates incredible vitality. Following my experience, if anyone wants to learn it would be great, especially how to be positive in life.”
This week it’s back to where last season was happy. “I’ve been training at altitude these days, I feel great”, he says. The Volta a Catalunya, from March 20 to 26, presents a very tough route this year, with up to three high mountain stages with finals in Vallter, la Molina and Tortosa – Lo Port. It will end, as usual in previous editions, at the Montjuïc circuit, a route that Træen has his sights set on. “The stages that end high suit me very well, thanks to my profile as a climber, and in the last one I think I can have options to surprise”, he warned. This Tuesday he finished the stage in 35th position. Overall, it ranks 33rd.
Regarding his goals at the end of the Tour and the end of the season, the Norwegian insists on living in the moment. “For me it is important to enjoy every moment. Every five months I get tested. The doctors told me that I was more likely to get cancer again than a normal person, testicular or any other,” he explains. Faced with this situation, Træen does not allow himself to fall into negativity. “I have to live with it. What can I do about it? Nothing. I have to learn to live like this and enjoy every ride,” he says. When the interview ends, it’s raining outside. “I’m from Norway, I’m used to the cold, but I hate the rain”, he concludes with a smile.