The 28-year-old Frenchman talked about his success in Imola and his first victory as World Champion.
I had a clear plan this year and that’s why my Tour de France preparation was focused also on what was beyond it, with the World Championships being my primary goal for the season. When I heard that they changed the parcours and that we were to race in Imola instead of Switzerland, I was a bit surprised, but I completely understood the situation and kept hope that the route would be hard and selective.
Straight after Le Tour, I travelled to Italy, where I enjoyed a nice recovery and got to do a recon of the course together with my French teammates. After the first ride there, I said to myself that it was now or never, that this would be my chance to get the rainbow stripes. I liked what I saw, knew that my level was a good one and had by my side a fantastic team, ready to turn themselves inside out for me, so I was ready to make the most of this.
At the same time, I made sure of going at the start pressure-free, without thinking of what could happen, and was extremely focused. To win the race after more than six hours and to finally accomplish this life-long dream was unbelievable, especially as it came from such a deep field, containing many strong riders. I said it also before, the rainbow jersey is the most beautiful in cycling and to know that it would be mine for twelve months was emotional and still is quite difficult to describe it in one word.
One week later came Liège–Bastogne–Liège and I was hoping for a good result there, but you know what happened. During the race I felt really good, despite the mechanicals I had and all the chasing, I attacked, sparked a selection and was confident in my chances. Unfortunately, I arrived in the last kilometer empty and that took its toll on me. I misjudged the final because I was very tired and made that mistake for which I am still sorry.
Fortunately, three days later I could make up for this at Brabantse Pijl, a race that I like a lot, where I wanted to improve on my runner-up place of last year. It was a day to my liking, with a hard up-and-down parcours, an aggressive race with plenty of attacks, and where I could once again count on a great Deceuninck – Quick-Step team. Winning in the rainbow jersey just ten days after conquering it was special and unforgettable, and at the same time, made me want more next year, when I am keen on honouring this jersey in all the races I will do.
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele / Getty Images