#BehindTheStripes: Gearing towards La Vuelta a Espana


I’m sitting here at Chicago O’Hare International Airport waiting for my flight to board to Barcelona. My last race was the Amgen Tour of Califorina and I took the opportunity to visit my in laws who live in Nebraska. It was the perfect post ‘first half – mid season’ break getaway. Spending quality time with them while recovering the mind and body from 40 days of racing so far for 2015.

I’m satisfied with how my 2015 season is playing out. In December I sat down with the coaches and my DS Alex Sans to discuss my goals and schedule. At this point everything is going according to plan with my hopes of starting my first Grand Tour- la Vuelta!

I started the season with the one day races in Mallorca. I got off to a great start being in the break during my first race and only being caught 2km from the finish. Even better, Steve Cummings won! Performances like those ones build the moral and from my first races, after each one I just wanted more. To race harder and to see how far I could get. I spent the next 2 weeks getting sand blown in my eyes and holding on for dear life in the gutter racing in Qatar and Oman. Both these tours were great experiences for me. Constantly fighting from km 0 to the finish as anything can happen.

Johann van Zyl St7 California

A real turning point or motivation came from a race I was not really meant to do: 3 Daagse West Vlaanderen. It always starts with the same 7km prologue and for some reason I love time trials. I never thought of myself as a prologue rider though. Somehow I managed to finish top 20 with just a few seconds off to having a really good result. And this was after I just received my Cervelo P5 the day before so I had no time to get used to the position. This opened up a whole new world as now suddenly I was top 20 on GC (PS: I lost that sot on the last stage though), but still, this got my attention. I went home with my Cervelo P5 and a lot of motivation wanting to improve on every possible aspect. Looking for a second here and a second there as that is what determines a good ride from a great ride.

I am on the ‘tours’ schedule which sent me to Coppi e Bartali, Circuit de La Sarthe, Giro del Trentino, Amgen Tour of California and also 2 of the Ardennes Classics with Amstel and Liege. During each of these races I built on from the previous. Louis won the GC at Coppi e Bartali which was incredible to be part of. At Circuit de la Sarthe I improved my short ITT position to finish 16th. During Giro del Trentino TTT we finished 6th. And now most recently in California I placed 13th during the short 10km ITT. So slowly I’m creeping up there. I’m going to keep on searching for seconds till the day I win.

Johann van Zyl St6 California

I’ve spent a fair amount of time in breakaways this season as well: Mallorca, Qatar, Oman, Amstel and California. I haven’t stayed away yet, but some day I have to so I’m going to keep on trying till I succeed. Plus, its great TT training. One of the best breaks was probably during Amstel Gold Race. My first World Tour race for the season and in my eyes, a legendary race! Being out front with the crowds lining the roads gave me goosebumps.

I’m slowly discovering what direction I want my career to develop in and am extremely excited to see what the future holds.

As I mentioned before I had a recovery week so tomorrow its back to the grind. I’ve booked my high altitude accommodation so I’ll be heading to the sky pretty soon working hard to find some more seconds.

The Snail!


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