The Frenchman talked us through the promising start of his 2017 season, the crash in Pais Vasco, the team's recent altitude training camp in Livigno, and his ambitions for the second half of the season.
Already from the beginning of the season I felt good, I was really happy with my condition and preparation before my big goals. I enjoyed riding my bike, was motivated and of course glad to start the season with taking home the best young rider's classification at the Abu Dhabi Tour, a stage win and the points and best young rider classification in Paris-Nice and to conclude my debut Milano-Sanremo on the podium.
I was therefore very motivated ahead of the races in April, and I arrived at Vuelta al Pais Vasco in good spirit, ready to test my level before the first big goal of the season: the Ardennes Classics. Unfortunately, I crashed on stage 3 and injured my knee severely, forcing me to abandon the race and changing my season goals and plans. It was tough and I was sad to have missed out on all the classics that I love so much, but on the other hand, I knew I had to stay calm and just try to enjoy some time with my family at home in France.
In the time between the crash and up until today, I have been focused on my comeback but also realistic and aware not to force my body and knee too hard. I knew I needed time to recover so I stayed calm and accepted that it would take the time it took – unfortunately, you cannot force the body to heal faster by training harder, so you just have to make the best out of the recovery period.
A month ago, I was not so good but today I can already feel that I have improved. I enjoy that I can finally train again without pain and do what I love. I was so happy to take part in the team's recent altitude camp in Livigno, at the beautiful Hotel Bivio. After the long period without that feeling of training every day, you kind of lose your identity as a pro cyclist. I cannot describe the feeling of finally coming back to training again – I really enjoyed it.
The altitude training camp lasted for two weeks and I discovered that I had to keep the pace down even though I wanted to go faster. Of course, I also felt that I could not follow the other guys on the climbs, they were of course in better condition than me, and that was a bit difficult to tackle in the beginning. But in the end, I felt that I was getting better day by day. The training camp was also really nice because we were 12 riders together from the team and the place was so beautiful and the conditions perfect. All in all, a really good block of work and a nice experience as well.
Today, I will race the Grand Prix Cerami in Belgium, which will be the first race since my injury. I am just really happy to be back and I hope I continue the good path where I feel stronger and better every day. It will be a special day returning to the peloton and racing again!
I would not say I am more motivated than normal because I'm always motivated, but I really miss racing and it is something special for me to come back. I need some kilometers and hours of racing to get the speed back in my legs.
I come to Grand Prix Cerami to test the waters and see where my level is, and of course to help my teammates as much as possible. I do not have any expectations for myself, and just want to enjoy racing again, be there for my teammates and then we will see what goals I can set for the rest of the season.
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele