It was a tough journey, but our two Academy Alumni that took part in this year’s Vuelta made it all the way to the finish line in Spain’s capital, Madrid, in what is a great step in the development as professional riders.
Aussie talent and first-timer in a 3-week race, Nick Schultz, was part of the 9-man squad that represented Caja Rural Seguros RGA in their home Grand Tour. Schultz, who graduated from the Academy in 2016, highlights the physical and mental battle that such a race demands. The young 23-year old Australian talent showed his potential as he obtained his best result in stage 20 when he climbed the infamous Angliru with the top guns of the peloton.
“Right now, I feel very tired. The physical battle was something above anything I have ever endured before. I am also very relieved in a sense, that I could make it to the end. What shocked me the most, was the ability that the senior riders have in their recovery. Everyday, they seemed so fresh and powerful, willing and able to race full gas, day in, day out. My big goal was to make it to the end of the race – I did that. Secondly, I wanted to infiltrate at least one break away. I managed to be in two break always with one being on the spectacular finishing circuits of Madrid on the final stage – that was a special way to finish!”
This year’s was the second participation of Koen Bouwman in the Spain’s La Vuelta with the Dutch WorldTour team of Lotto NL Jumbo. The Dutch climber, who won stage at this year’s Critérium du Dauphiné, talks about how he improved in comparison to the 2016 edition:
“Actually my body feels still a lot fresher than last year, and also mentally it’s a big improvement. In 2016 I was counting down the stages after the first restday, but now I was still looking and aiming for a good result until the Angliru stage. My goal before the Vuelta was to ride a good TTT and individual TT, and try to be in a break in a hard stage and going for a own result. In the end my result in the individual TT was not what I was hoping for, I didn’t have the legs that day. I had a really good ending, as I got my own result in stage 19 where I made my first top 10 in a Grand Tour, and in the second-to-last day to the Angliru was probably my best day of the Vuelta. I rode the highest watts for the whole 3 weeks, which is a boost for the moral. All in all I’m really happy with the progress I made comparing with a year ago, especially my watts/kg.”