The Dutchman gave an account of his first day of racing in more than eight months, at the Tour of Turkey.
Today was a really nice day. In the morning, when I pulled on the Deceuninck – Quick-Step jersey, I had a special feeling, which is difficult to put into words, especially as it came after so many months of watching my teammates race on TV and perform well. I love riding my bike and race and I missed it a lot, that’s why I am extremely happy to be here. It’s great to finish a race!
It was good for me to make my return with a short stage and get used again to being in a peloton. I must admit that in the beginning, when they swung right and left and the bunch had to brake a couple of times, I got a bit scared, but afterwards it was better and better and I even went to the head of the peloton and stayed in Iljo’s wheel, who was pulling, as I just wanted to enjoy being at the front.
In the first part of the stage, many riders – some of my generation, but also some older ones – came to me to exchange some words and it was a very touching moment when they told me how happy they were to see me back and how they all wished me well. Now, after the stage, I checked my phone and I saw the messages I got from so many riders and fans, to whom I want to thank very much. It’s emotional to see all this outpouring of support on this special day.
The goal was to conclude the day, but even so I tried to help the guys whenever it was possible. Then, with ten kilometers to go, I got lost a bit and couldn’t be there for the team in the finale, but being able to conclude my first race in so many months makes me proud and gives me a lot of confidence that I will improve going into next week. I look forward to being of more help for my teammates in the coming stages and enjoy every single moment I spend here.
Photo credit: ©Stuart Franklin / Getty Images