It’s always good to race for your country, as I did last Sunday at the Road European Championships in Denmark. Wearing the orange of the Netherlands is a completely different feeling, and we had an excellent result with Moreno Hofland finishing third.
I didn’t really know some of the guys I was racing with so it was quite interesting trying to form an effective team. They were guys I know by name, who I’ve said ‘Hi’ to at a few races, but I’d never really spoken to them before.
We got together on the Friday before the race on Sunday, and it was nice that the guys really trusted me as the road captain. They listened to me - during the race I told them more or less what to do and it’s good they had confidence in me.
To ride so well together after such a short time was amazing. We didn’t have a big name in the team but made a good plan and looked after Moreno really well.
Riding the Tour de France with Alberto Contador last month, I had no idea he was thinking of retiring this year. I imagined he’d do at least one more season and that he’d continue to compete really well.
He’s made that choice to retire and to be with him at the Vuelta, his final race, is certainly going to be memorable. Alberto is clearly one of the best riders of our generation - probably the best Grand Tour rider of our generation - so it’s a historic thing to race the Tour de France and Vuelta a España with him in his final season.
It will be emotional for Alberto, and for the Spanish fans, and no doubt there will be a lot of attention on him. But I’m really looking forward to being part of that.
Riding the European Championships fitted in with my programme between racing the Tour and Vuelta. It’s nice to have a few little hit-outs between the two. With a couple of post-Tour criteriums, the Prudential RideLondon-Surrey Classic and the European Championships, that’s plenty of pre-Vuelta racing for me.
I’ve got a bit of experience of riding two Grand Tours in one season. It’s tricky to get the balance right. It’s different for every rider, but I’ve figured out what works for me; I need a couple of races plus as much rest as possible.
It’s a fine line between resting up enough and recovering while not losing form. I’ve not done a lot of training - some high-intensity stuff but no real endurance riding. Now we’re only a week away from the Vuelta.
Tour and Vuelta differences
It’s such a big difference between the Vuelta and the Tour. It’s less stressful, less of a media circus. Having said that, with Alberto riding his last race, I’m sure there will be plenty of media interest in our team.
Like any three-week bike race, it’s still incredibly demanding. But at the Tour you’re racing all-out and then have a huge amount of extra stress to deal with. The Vuelta is a little more relaxed and I’m looking forward to that.
For me this will make it six Vueltas, six Tours, and two Giros. It’s unbelievable that Adam Hansen will be riding his 19th consecutive Grand Tour for Lotto Soudal. Two is hard enough.
I did three consecutive before, although it was Tour / Vuelta / Giro so not all in the same year. And I thought that was pretty crazy. Adam has taken it a new level and established a record that no one will get close to. Hats off to him.
I’m in Andorra right now and caught the end of yesterday’s BinckBank Tour stage. It was great to see Edward Theuns win it for Trek-Segafredo. He’s a talented young rider and super-strong, and it was nice to see him getting a big victory. Here’s hoping for more Trek-Segafredo victories at the Vuelta.