Dylan van Baarle’s Vuelta a Espana blog: Week one

23 Aug 2021

Dylan van Baarle’s Vuelta a Espana blog: Week one

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Have I mentioned that it’s really hot?

I’d been asking the team for a while if I could do the Vuelta, since midway through the Tour actually, as I was still feeling good in the last week. So, I was happy to arrive in Burgos, well that was until I realised it was going to involve riding in 35 degrees heat, over flat and windy semi-desert terrain, which makes the peloton somewhat nervous. I think we’ve run out of superlatives to describe the Spanish inferno we’ve endured over the last nine days!  

Although, flat and windy terrain reminds me of Holland, that's where the comparisons end between Burgos and my homeland. Thankfully, having just come back from Tokyo, and living in Monaco means I’m luckily quite well adapted to the heat, and don’t suffer as much as I used to. 

At the start of the race my goal was the prologue, I felt quite strong that day, I really wanted to give it a good hit out, and I’d trained quite a lot prior to the race on the TT bike up in Isola 2000. Unfortunately having a slow puncture during the prologue isn’t ideal for setting your best time, but I still felt like the legs were there and it set me off for a good week of racing.

Before coming to the race the idea was that I would be there to support Egan, Adam and Richie during the flat stages. We weren’t sure how well I was going to go on the climbs after the Tour, Olympics block, but so far on the climbs I’ve also been able to play my part. Long may it continue. 

There’s been a lot of unknowns for us coming into this Grand Tour, what with six of us having participated in the Olympics, we weren’t sure exactly where we would be performance wise. On top of that we have a young team here, and there are some guys that I haven’t really raced with, like Salva, because he’s always on the Italian programme, and I’m always on the French programme. 

But it’s been really nice to be with the guys. Salva is super chilled and easy going, then you have Tom who is young, and racing his first Grand Tour. It’s a good mix, we’re gelling together nicely. The first few days it’s all about working out how we work together, especially when the heat means having to do so many bottle and ice runs to and from the team car. 

It’s been a learning curve for me, coming from the Tour I always have Kwiato and Luke telling me what to do, when to go grab bottles etc. In previous races I’ve been in that helper role, whereas in this race I feel like I’ve had to step up to that road captain role, along with Salva, to make sure people are doing the right thing at the right time. But I’ve enjoyed taking the role on, having learned so much from Kwiato and Luke it feels good to be able to now put that into practice.
Ok, let’s talk about Roglič. There’s no guessing how well he’s performing post Olympics, his level is super high. We’re trying to make the race hard to try and isolate him, but when someone is that strong it’s hard to beat them. It’s good though to still have Egan and Adam up there on the GC. 

But you can tell people are suffering, on yesterday’s stage, for example, when the bunch started to go hard, there were just bodies being shelled out the back of the bunch. It’s insane! To say the parcours haven't been that crazy, it’s in moments like that you realise how much the heat is taking out of people. 

Lastly, I want to talk about someone who is really important to me, and how happy I have been to watch them race these last nine days, and that’s Fabio Jakobson. Man, I feel so proud of him. His first win was a big moment, not just for me, but the peloton as a whole. Fabio and I are super close; it was hard to see someone you care for crash the way he did. It’s been a long way for him to come back to this level. When I was in Holland after the Classics we were chatting about him wanting to do the Vuelta, to take that next step so he could work towards being stronger for next season. 

Now he’s won two stages and has the green jersey, it’s like the page has turned, everyone has to be afraid of him in a sprint again. It’s pretty special to see him back on the level where he belongs.