The 2020 season starts next week and I cannot wait!
After a fantastic training camp in Spain, I’m feeling fresh and ready for a big season with UAE Team Emirates.
The camp was really busy - as well as the training, we had a lot of biometric and physical tests that measured everything from our power to our eye sight. It’s amazing to see the level of technology the team uses to get the best out of the riders. I’ve never seen anything like this in pro cycling, it really is next level.
We also got our new kits for 2020. They look very similar to 2019 so fans can easily pick us out in the peloton.
The camp was also a good chance for the whole squad to get together and it gave the new riders an opportunity to meet the team and back room staff.
Cycling is unlike most other team sports. Because everyone has a unique race schedule, we can go a whole year without seeing someone that we hung out with at the pre-season camp.
I know some of the new riders already and so far, they have settled in really well. The team puts a lot of trust in youth and this season we’ve got a really good balance between the young riders and the more experienced guys. We’ve also got a real mix of nationalities which brings a cool vibe to the dinner table in the evenings.
It’s nice to know you can speak to the riders who have been on the tour a lot longer than you. I’m always asking for tips about some of the races and the experienced guys offer advice on things like positioning and tactics. I always pay attention to them and know I need to, to keep improving.
There’s a really good atmosphere in the team right now and we’re all very optimistic about the season ahead.
First up for us is the Santos Tour Down Under, kicking the season off on Tuesday, January 21. I won stage 5 last year in my first WorldTour race for UAE Team Emirates, albeit under unusual circumstances. I came second but was promoted to first place after Lotto Soudal’s Caleb Ewan, who was first across the finish line, was relegated.
It was nice to have a victory under my belt, especially in my first race, but nobody wants to win like that. You want to cross the line first with your arms in the air and hopefully this year I will get to experience that a few times.
As a team, we are really looking forward to the season starting and also the Tour Down Under. We are keeping a close eye on what is happening in Australia at the moment and we are thinking of the people affected by the bush fires. As for the race itself, I see a few opportunities for the sprinters and myself. We have Diego Ulissi in the team who will be our man for the GC.
We face just over 900km of racing and more than 12,000km of climbing, but the race usually comes down to mere seconds. In 2017, Richie Porte, had one of the biggest winning margins and that was just 48 seconds. The time bonuses at the finish of each stage and at some of the sprints will become vital as there will be tough competition for the race with a lot of the riders eager for an early victory.
At the training camp, I sat down with the directors and planned which races I would be riding throughout the season. As a Belgian, I always looking out for the races in my home country as they are very special to me, they also suit my characteristics quite well. Normally, I’m good at the sprints and I’d like to perform in the classic races but it’s not always easy. After Australia, I will prepare for the spring classics. Then look to Paris-Nice, the Tour of Flanders and the Vuelta Espana – these are races that I’d like to perform well in.
My first season in the WorldTour was a good experience and I achieved quite a few podiums. It was about building up my experience in some of the big races and aiming for good results in the smaller ones. I got a lot of chances and a lot of trust was put in me from the team.
We will see what this season holds but it’s great to know I have the backing of my team and hopefully I can repay the faith put in me this season with a more wins.