The 23-year-old on the day he became the first Belgian in more than four decades to score a hat-trick of victories at the Vuelta a España.

“That success meant a lot to me. I was nearing the end of my fifth pro season, and to reach this incredible milestone – having won many quality races – is something that made me proud and confirmed all the progress I had made since joining Soudal Quick-Step. That victory showed that every year I got a bit stronger and a bit more mature, so I could be only happy about it.

Upon crossing the finish line, I made that sign to show to everybody that mentally I’m kind of unbreakable. It’s always easy to pull somebody down but I showed my head is pretty strong, I have an incredibly solid team and a super-strong wife – to whom I dedicated that win – and they help me be unbreakable.

Those three mountain stages in what was a tough edition of La Vuelta underlined how good my condition was for the race, but also what I am capable of when I’m at my best. It made me more relaxed and allowed me to just have fun for the remaining days, which culminated with that full gas, entertaining breakaway on the final stage in Madrid and the KOM classification.

I’m the first to say that the GC plan didn’t work out last summer, but the hat-trick of wins, together with the mountains jersey and the trophy for the most combative rider of the race completely made up for that. Last but not least, they gave me even more confidence for my next Grand Tour challenges and showed that I am on the right track to become better in these races.”


Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele / Getty Images

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