I am loving being back in the team, pinning my number on before races and racing competitively again. It sounds strange to say but I have missed the little things that come with racing: the atmosphere on the bus before the race, the dinners after the stages with my teammates and being back in that "locker room" environment.
I’m sure there was some doubt in most people’s minds about whether the level of cycling would be affected after months of no competitive racing, but I can confirm we’ve been full gas every day and the level is higher than ever.
As a team, we remained optimistic during lockdown and hopeful that the 2020 season would resume. We are thankful that we’ve been given the opportunity to race again - one that we are not taking for granted.
It’s been very professional since the restart and I have been impressed by the thoroughness of the organisers. We are tested twice before each race and must wear masks when we’re not on the bike. These are small sacrifices to make and if it means we can race safely, it’s definitely worth it.
Since the restart, I have raced in three World Tour races – Strade Bianche, Milano-Sanremo and Criterium du Dauphine. Next, I will be competing in the biggest race in the world, the Tour de France – the pinnacle of every rider’s season.
We trained really well and put in a lot of work at altitude ahead of my most recent race at the Criterium du Dauphine. Our training paid off and we got some great results. My teammate, Davide Formolo won stage three and was flying, it was really special to watch him perform well and win that stage.
My focus now is solely on training consistently for the Tour de France as I want to arrive there fresh and in top condition for three weeks of top-level competitive racing.
Mentally, I feel ready and quite relaxed. My condition is improving all the time and it will be a dream come true to make my Tour de France debut.
I only turned pro with the team last year but my performances at the Vuelta a Espana in 2019 stand me in good stead for this year's Tour and I feel confident I can put in some strong performances for the team.
The biggest lesson I took from the Vuelta was how to race for three weeks. I felt strong in the third week of the Vuelta so that’s a good sign. The Tour is a big step up, but I am a stronger rider than I was 12 months ago and lucky to have such an amazing team around me with some very experienced riders.
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We are bringing a well-rounded team that can really compete in France. Fabio Aru and Alexander Kristoff, two riders that I respect immensely, have an abundance of experience in big races and that will be invaluable. I will try and learn as much as I can from them. Formolo will also be a strong ally for me in the mountains.
I don’t have any concrete goals specifically for the Tour as it’s totally new territory for me, but it was singled out as a race the team wanted to do well in at the start of the season and I am ready to compete. We’ve already shown what we can do since the restart and I have no doubts we will continue to impress here.
I hope that everyone in the UAE is safe and enjoying cycling being back. At the moment it’s safer for fans to watch the races on television but we hope at some point you will be able to join us at some races.
We are proud to be carrying the UAE flag on our jersey and will perform as best we can at the Tour de France, where the world will be watching.