When I look back on this year, a lot has happened, and I had both ups and downs. During the off season I could already work on my endurance so my body can now deal much better with longer distances and I can play my cards at the end of a race much better than in my first year as a pro.
I also felt in my first races of the season that I have more routine in and around a race and that helped me quite a lot from the beginning of the year. My season started at the Tour of Oman, which was quite a nice race with a young group. My first personal highlight was Strade Bianche. There I could make the jump into the breakaway, together with Leon [Heinschke], which was super fun. I’m thankful that the team gave me the opportunity to go for the break and I enjoyed that day – it was a nice experience!
My first big stage race of the year was then the Volta Catalunya. Unfortunately, I got sick there and got hit quite hard by the flu. That meant I was out for a bit, which was quite disappointing and meant that my focus until the Tour of Norway was on building up my shape again.
In Norway, I had the chance to go for the GC for the first time in my career. Already before coming to the race, I had a look at the parcours and the line-up and we decided together that it could be a nice opportunity to also get experience in that role. Being the finisher in a pro race is completely different from what I was used to from the juniors. I got great support from the whole team, and they did a superb job, it was a great feeling to be part of that group. I made some small mistakes on the first day, but I was with the best on stages two and three. This really gave me a lot of confidence and I was happy with my performance there. I really enjoyed that versatile profile in Norway and I had a lot of fun going for the GC there.
Unfortunately, I tested positive for Covid during the race and had to leave early. I was disappointed since the GC was already pretty much decided as there were only two sprint stages left, but I can still be proud of what I achieved there, and it gives confidence for the future.
After a solid eighth place at the German TT nationals and an unfortunate crash in the road race, we continued the preparations for the Vuelta with a Team GC Camp and High-Altitude camp. At the GC camp, we were with the GC riders from the Men and Development programs and had some good training, but also had the chance to get to know each other better off the bike too. I think we will have a nice GC group in the future, and I am looking forward to race with them.
From there I went to Poland for the Tour de Pologne to make another step in the preparations for the Vuelta. We had a good week there, with Thymen winning the TT and getting second in GC and I managed to come fifth in the TT and 12th in the final classification. This was a nice confirmation of my performance in Norway, and I felt that I made another small step in my development in the meantime. In the end, this was the best result of my career so far and I am proud of that.
Now I am at the Vuelta, the first Grand Tour of my career. The start in Utrecht was impressive and especially at the TTT I was quite nervous in the beginning. At the start I accidentally clipped out of my pedals for a moment, but after that, I could find my rhythm. Unfortunately, we lost three guys in the first week, but Thymen is in a solid position for the GC and we will continue looking for our chances for day results as well. Personally, it was a mixed race so far. I had some good days on the bike, I was in the break once and could celebrate my birthday here. I also had some hard days too but that’s expected at your first Grand Tour, and you can really feel that a lot of top riders are in their best shape here.
I am really enjoying the experience so far though and I’m looking forward to the rest of the race. I hope you enjoy watching it too!