The talented Dutchman – who is racing his second event as pro at the Tour of Oman – looked back on his debut with the team.
Making my first pro appearance with Quick-Step Floors at the Dubai Tour, where our team won the overall and two stages, was truly amazing! Being in the lead-out train was of course the most exciting thing of all. I did practice it during the December training camp in Calpe, and on paper it might have looked easy, but when you're there in the thick of the action, it's something completely different.
For example, on the opening day of the Dubai Tour, when I rode for the first time in the sprint train for Elia, I was both nervous and excited. There were many new things for me, like having earplugs and getting info on the race situation from our sports director or communicating with my teammates at all times during the race. Eventually, it all went ok, I did my job and I was happy I easily 'fitted' in the system and the structure of the squad, but I must admit that I was on my limit that day.
The second stage, I took over a bit earlier in the train and the next day I was all day pulling at the front of the peloton, so I can say I did a bit of everything last week. I look back on this race with great satisfaction! Not only that we won the overall classification, capping off an excellent week, but I got to ride in the bunch with some of the best riders in the world. I worked hard to get here and having reached this point only motivates me to continue on this path and give everything.
It's fantastic to become pro on this team, a team that knows how to help you develop, just look at all the riders who've made a name for themselves after joining Quick-Step Floors. It is difficult to put into words the great atmosphere we have in the squad, how everybody gets along with everybody, how they support you and make you feel like home, while at the same time showing remarkable professionalism. It's like a well-oiled machine, everyone knows what they have to do and they do it flawlessly. I've asked people for how long they've been around, and the average was five to seven years, but some told me they are here for over two decades. Can you imagine? I think that says a lot! That's no fluke, it all has to do with the structure and the quality of it.
To get the chance to join this team as a 21-year-old neo-pro means I have to keep my eyes open and learn a lot, aware there's a long road ahead of me. Many people have asked me what are my expectations for this season, and I told them that the main goal is to listen and learn from everyone, experienced guys like Niki – with whom I share the room – or Sabatini and Elia, both masters of the sprint. Having them around and getting to observe them it really is a privilege.
Of course, I'd be lying if I said that I wouldn't like to win a race, to do that in my first pro season would be beyond any words! That's the beauty of Quick-Step Floors, everyone gets opportunities during the season. When this will happen to me, I'll make sure of giving it my all to grab it with both hands!
Photo: ©Tim De Waele/ Getty Images