In our latest blog, the Luxembourg champion – who'll start his season at the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana – talks of his previous year and his goals for 2016.
I started really well in 2015, with the overall victory at the Etoile de Bessèges, which left me content and confident for what was to come. In April I raced the Ardennes, and then I took a break, went to the Tour of Norway, Tour de Suisse, National Championships and Tour de France. I noticed during Norway that I'm getting into shape, and that was very encouraging, especially as summer was just around the corner. Then, Suisse was really fantastic for me, one of the highlights of the year. To finish 6th in one of the oldest and most important stage races in the calendar, one which many view as the fourth Grand Tour, was satisfying and boded well ahead of the National Championships, where I won both races, just as I did in 2013.
July brought my first start in the Tour de France, and you really can't imagine how different this race is. I noticed that during a fast and crazy first week. It was very stressful at all times and extremely difficult to ride at the front. Seeing this, I said to myself that I have to take it easy in the first two weeks, and this proved to be a wise decision, as in the final week of the race I had much more energy and went in a couple of breakaways, notching two top 10 placings, in Gap and Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne. This was really nice, but even more important than these results was seeing that I was very strong in the last week, because it's something I can build on in the future.
At the end of 2015 – the first year in which I felt I can go for a victory in a World Tour race – I changed teams and as you all know, I have signed with Etixx – Quick-Step, a move which I regard as a big step for my future. Last year I felt a lot of improvement throughout the season, and Etixx – Quick-Step is the right team to continue this development. So far, I took part in the team's training camps in Spain, and I'm really happy of how things went and how quickly I've found my place here. It's a really nice structure, you can easily see there's a strong cohesion between the riders, and I'm confident I will thrive in this environment.
What are my goals for 2016? I think there's not much surprise here: I will continue on the same ground as before and target week-long stage races and the Ardennes Classics, which I'm becoming more and more fond of. I'm aware that there's still a lot of room for improvement – on the climbs and in the time trial – and my focus will be to do that while trying to get good results in the general classification of such events as Paris-Nice, Tirreno-Adriatico or the Tour de Suisse. As for the Grand Tours, we can take it more easy, as I'm still young and there's no need to burn the steps.
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele