The 22-year-old talked of his return in the peloton and the expectations he has for the Tour of California, which he is racing for the first time in his career.
it also taught me a lot. I became stronger mentally, which is where it all really starts, in your head. I've learned that family is the most important thing in the world. And by family I mean not only my real family, but what I've really discovered in this hard time is that the team is my real cycling family.
They have never let me down. They have never forgot about me. They always made sure that I was still a part of the team and for that I'll always be grateful!
They invited me to dinners in the team hotel, I even went training with our sponsors from Lidl the weekend of the Ronde Van Vlaanderen, so I never had the feeling I wasn't part of this team anymore. And that is something amazing, you can't imagine how much it means!
I'm super excited to have returned to racing two weeks ago. Eschborn-Frankfurt was great for me personally and it felt amazing to be back in the peloton, my second home. Surprisingly, my legs also felt good, which I didn't expect after being out of action for so long. So I tried to attack and it went really good, it gave me an extra boost of confidence and euphoria! Of course, after a while I realized I got too enthusiastic and got blown away, but nevertheless, it was incredible and gave me goose bumps to be again in the bunch and have that special feeling only racing with a number on your back can give you.
After Frankfurt I went training with Tom Steels behind the motorbike, to get my speed back, and now I'm in the US, which is just crazy! I love being here. I was in Richmond for the World Championships a few years back, but now being here on the West Coast is great. I was really looking forward to this race.
California is mind-blowing, is flamboyant, it's everything that you see in movies! We are so close to Beverly Hills, to Hollywood and all the other nice landmarks. Long Beach is where we start and it looks fantastic, the ocean, the piers, everything is straight out of a postcard. So you can imagine how happy I am to be here.
The team is motivated and we hope to get some nice results. Fernando Gaviria is our leader and we'll give our best so he can fight for victory in the flat stages. We got to train around and look over the roadbook, and we know a hard race lies ahead, but that only motivates us!
Did I tell you how happy I am to be here? I know I did, but what you don't know is that I hope I can taste a real American hamburger before the race kicks off on Sunday. Mark my words, I will not leave this country without trying one!
Photo credit: ©Sigfrid Eggers