Approaching the final 300 metres in the Bredene Koksijde, I was just focused on victory. There was no panic, no cloudiness in my thought process, no second-guessing of my judgement, I was laser focused on the job in hand; a job that I’d managed to accomplish once in my career already, so this wasn’t a step into the unknown. Having attacked a little too late in the race in previous years, I saw my gap with 300m to go and launched my sprint with everything I had left and took home my first victory in UAE colours.
Granted, I had already won the Bredene Koksijde Classic once before, but getting the first win under my belt for UAE Team Emirates is something that I will treasure for the rest of my career. As a sprinter, you are always conscious of where your next victory might come from, so to do the job for the team early in my time here felt incredible and it’s a feeling that I am striving to repeat soon.
Having moved across from the Bora-Hansgrohe cycling team at the end of last season, I was eagerly anticipating our first training camp and to meet the team. In all honesty, I didn’t know many of the riders in the team on a personal level, other than interactions during and after races in past years. However, after only a few months, I can say that I – along with the other new riders for the 2022 season – have been welcomed into the UAE Team Emirates cycling family with open arms and been made to feel so welcome.
From the outside, the team always seemed to have such a strong bond and incredible feeling between riders, coaching staff, and support staff. Coupled with the trajectory the team was heading on, I felt this was the perfect opportunity to take this next step in my career. Being able to call myself a UAE Team Emirates rider and a part of this group is an honour, and I couldn’t have imagined it going any better.
The mood and the vibe within the group is always aided by successful performances to fall back on, and it’s fair to say we’ve had a brilliant start to the season. With 22 wins and 41 podiums on the board already, the atmosphere in the group is superb. From the top-down, we have engrained a winning culture that rubs off on every single member of the team. Heading into a busy period of the season, we are all unbelievably motivated to build upon this strong start.
Other than my personal race victory, my highlight of the campaign so far was in the Tirreno-Adriatico, ‘the race of the two seas’ in Italy. We really had to rally together as a team to put our leader – Tadej Pogacar – in the best possible position to take home the Trident for a second year in a row.
Being a power-rider, the high-mountains aren't my preferred choice of terrain whatsoever! But, as a team, we all had to play our part and I found myself pulling the peloton along across dozens of kilometres to defend our position. That feeling of togetherness and unity as we reached the finish line was really quite special and something that will stay with me for a long time.
Looking ahead to the remainder of the season, we have a number of goals, both from a personal and team perspective. Personally, winning the European Championships in my home country of Germany would be a dream come true. This is an event that is at the forefront of my mind, and one that I will be gearing my training towards and striving for another race win.
Pogacar wins back-to-back Tour de France titles
From a team perspective, defending the Tour De France is one of our key aims. Winning it two years in a row is an incredible achievement, so to make it a hat-trick of successive victories, in the world's hardest cycling race, would be unparalleled. We also have crucial Grand Tour events coming up with the Giro d’ Italia and Vuelta Espana, so it is all to play for and we’re all chomping at the bit to continue this amazing start to the season.
Since joining the team and spending some time in the UAE, I’ve been blown away by the fans with their passion for not only the team, but also cycling as a sport. This bond that we’re continually developing with the UAE inspires every single member of our team, and we’ll be doing everything we can to keep winning throughout the year for our Emirati based fans!