The experienced Czech rider highlighted his goals for this season, his 11th with the Wolfpack.
Last year, I had a good start to the season. After so many years in the peloton, I wanted to change my approach and that’s why I tried something different. Usually, I would have started my campaign in Valencia or Algarve, but now I was ready for something else, so I went to Argentina. The race was great, the weather was excellent and the fans created a superb atmosphere. It felt good to win a stage there, especially one where the sprinters were favourites. The entire experience was unforgettable and it’s a pity that the race got cancelled this year, but I want to come back one day.
When I returned to Europe, I felt the shape was there and I was growing week by week, which made me confident for Strade Bianche. Unfortunately, the race got cancelled, which led to a change of plans, so I went to Paris-Nice, where I continued to improve, but then the season stopped, which was really frustrating, as the shape was there and I was looking forward to the cobbled Classics, and especially E3 Harelbeke, where I wanted to defend my title.
At the end of the day, we were in this together, so I just tried to look on the bright side, which was the good weather and the fact I could train outside. When things got underway again, I travelled to Val di Fassa with the team, we had a great training camp and I began believing I would have a very good second part of the season. My top 10 in Strade Bianche and my solid ride in Milano-Sanremo underlined this, but then I had the knee injury which took me out of the Tour de France team and that was quite a bummer.
The season wasn’t over and I was motivated to keep fighting, but missing Tirreno-Adriatico – a key race in my preparation – and many training days didn’t help with the cobbled Classics on the horizon. I wasn’t in the best condition there and couldn’t get the results I wanted, and on top of that, the races in itself were very strange without the fans. I remember being alone on the Oude Kwaremont and it was all silent, making me feel like I was on a training ride. As a rider, I push myself harder when the fans are there and make an electric atmosphere that gives you goosebumps.
Then the Vuelta a España came, and riding it gave me a big condition boost going into the winter. I had a strong race with the guys and I hope its impact will be obvious this year. As I enter my 11th season with Deceuninck – Quick-Step, the expectations are the same as in last years: have a good start to the season and continue like that until Paris-Roubaix. I also want to go to the Olympic Games and be part of the team for the World Championships. The parcours in Belgium is nice and much to my liking. Every race I will do is important and I will give everything out there each time I’ll pin a number.
Photo credit: ©Wout Beel