After a testing year, the Vuelta a España turned out to be really good for me because I could show I had some great shape towards the end of the year. While I didn’t win a stage, which was frustrating and quite sad, I got a second, two thirds, a fourth and a fifth on stage finishes. And at least my hard work got some recognition. In truth, I hadn’t felt that good since Paris-Nice, so it was a relief as well.
Halfway through the race, I was told that I had also made Belgium’s team for the World Championships, which of course is a really great honour. That gave me an extra morale boost for the rest of the race, and helped with my results. This will be the second time I’ve ridden the Worlds as a professional. I’m quite glad I managed to get my debut out of the way last year. The World Championships is so different because you’re racing with guys you usually try and beat and against guys who you spend all year with. Racing the Worlds last year means I know what is coming and I can focus totally on the course… which is quite a tasty one and very hilly. In fact, the Vuelta was perfect preparation because many of the mountain finishes were quite similar to what we expect on the Worlds course. Still, there’s a big difference between racing for the win from a break in a stage race and racing for the win from the front in the Worlds.
Manging the gap between the end of the Vuelta and the Worlds has been a bit of a chore, to be honest. I’m used to racing a long season, but holding form for two weeks after the Vuelta does go against the grain a little bit.
Dylan came agonisingly close to a win at the Vuelta on stage 17’s summit inish Some riders are winding down, not taking things too seriously and I’m still having to maintain rigid discipline because form can evaporate just like that if you don’t watch yourself. It would be easier if I had long rides to do – that would kill the time – but the Vuelta gave me all the base miles I could possibly need. So now my training consists mostly of short days and that means I’ve got more time on my hands than usual.
Still, I also have some nice racing after the worlds: Giro dell’Emilia, Milan-Turin and Il Lombardia. They’re races that suit me and it would be a shame to let such good opportunities go to waste. After that I will have a team meeting with my new squad, Bahrain-Merida which makes me both excited and a little nervous. After that I will think about some holiday plans.
At the moment, for me, the season still feels like it is in full swing.
Holding form for two weeks after the Vuelta to the Worlds does go against the grain