In this blog, our always entertaining Frenchman talks about his recent Vuelta a España, which saw him take a beautiful stage victory, and his expectations ahead of the World Championships this Sunday.
The time is passing so fast, and it is nearly two weeks since I finished Vuelta a España, which was an incredible experience for me personally and for the whole team. I am really proud and happy to have been part of what we achieved as a team in the Vuelta over the course of all three weeks, from the opening podium in the team time trial in Nimes to Yves', my own and Matteo's victories, icing the cake with the final stage win in Madrid. Six stage victories in a Grand Tour could be a once in a life time experience!
Coming into the Vuelta I had a good feeling, because I knew my form was going up. For sure, I started far from my best condition but I had a good indication from Burgos, which I did just before the Vuelta, without any expectation. I found myself not so bad as I could have expected, and I knew that that week of racing in Burgos would improve my progression.
I finished tired but not broken, so the next step was to be at the Vuelta, with a goal and ambition to work for the team, and, if I had the legs, try my chances. I took at stage win, on a really hard day, and I can't describe how happy and proud I am. It was a nice present after all the tough moments and hard work I paid for coming back to this level after my injury.
I did not expect I had the legs to win. The final climb was unbelievably hard, but I knew that if I was still in the front on top of the climb, I had a chance. Of course, it is easier said than done, and it was both a mental and tough road battle against Majka. He is an outstanding climber, which he proved over and over, by also taking a beautiful stage victory, and he tried to drop me several times. The legs were screaming and burning but my head was strong and I had a lot of grinta to reach the top in front.
The feeling crossing the line first was incredible. This is what you train so hard for, work for and live for. It is hard to describe. Taking my maiden Grand Tour stage victory is a beautiful present for all the hard work and for the team, friends and family who believed in me. You are never sure to win, even when your condition is on top, but my morale was strong that day. I wanted, no, I needed to win. That day was my day and I am just really happy I landed that victory.
During the Vuelta, I felt a continued progression and was feeling better and better. Of course, I was tired like everybody else, and I was missing the legs in the final moments in the last week, but I was happy because I was up there in the mix.
Since the Vuelta finished, I have recovered well and kept a strong focus on my condition and progression up till the Worlds on Sunday in Bergen. I think we have some good opportunities here with the national team. The course suits us, but there are many really strong riders who come on top of their game.
As always, I am really happy to be part of the national team, it is always a big honor to sport the French national jersey. I am motivated and looking so much forward to be there on the start line Sunday and then we will see. It will be a tough and long race, with almost 270 kilometers on a demanding parcouse, and also the weather can have a big influence on the race. I can't say what will happen, because the outcome depends on many factors and the Worlds are always unpredictible, but I would love to be there at the finish and fight for the rainbow jersey.
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele