Interview: Tim Wellens

By David Hunter

What an amazing season for Tim. At the age of 23, he competed in his first Grand Tour, the Giro d’Italia. When I say competed, he really competed! Two 2nd places and 4th in the KOM classification. He followed this up with 2nd place in Ster ZLM, before taking his first ever victory in the Eneco Tour. Not only did he win stage 6, but he also claimed the overall title. Not content with this, he was very active in the Canadian races, before rounding off the season with 4th place in Il Lombardia. wellensok

His attacking style has made him a favourite with the fans and people are quick to compare him to a number of great riders. His ability to compete in 1 day races and stage races have seen him compared to Alejandro Valverde, although more attacking! I recently caught up with Tim to chat about his wonderful season.

You started off in Majorca, due to your knee operation. You didn’t achieve any big results in the early part of the season and you finished 68th in Amstel, 61st in Fleche and 43 in LBL. What did you think about your performance in the Ardennes Classics?

I had very good legs in all the Ardennes Classics. There was no result because of the team tactics. I had to go in the attack just before the final, this is what I did.

Next up was 2nd in the Belgian ITT Championships. You only finished 16 seconds behind Vandewalle, a TT specialist, over 44.4km. Did you surprise yourself?

Yes, it was a surprise. I was good because I just did the classics.

Obviously, if you want to be a star in Grand Tours, it’s vital to be good on your TT bike. How much time do you spend on your TT bike?

Not enough. I need to work harder on this. Next year I’m going to focus more on this.

Have you spent time working on your position?

Yes, I did some aero testing at the beginning of the year.

An ITT seems to be psychological, not just physical. Do you agree? What do you think about during the race?

I don’t believe this. I try to concentrate as good as possible.

Clearly in good form, you then headed for Italy and your first Grand Tour. It started in Ireland. What did you think about the Irish crowds? Would you like to go back?

It was amazing! A lot of people. It was a very nice experience, and I would like to go back. The landscape reminded me a little bit of the Ardennes.

Stage 6 up to Montecassino, was your first major result of the race, a great 2nd place. The stage was marred by a massive crash and you were lucky enough to miss it. Did you see what was going on behind you?

It was just next to me, so I was very lucky not to fall. But luck, you make yourself.

You were left with a massive task of trying to outsprint Michael Matthews. In that moment, did you only think about 2nd place or did you think you could beat him?

Yes I thought I could win. I believed in it, but Matthews was just better then me.

You were part of the break on stage 14, to Oropa, finishing in 9th. You moved to 2nd in the KOM jersey. What are your memories of that day?

Dissapointed, because I had hoped to end better. I put too much effort into the KOM jersey. I prefer to have a good result, looking back at it.

Another day and another break! This time it was stage 17 and you and 4 others, got clear of the big break. As you rode into town, Pirazzi attacked at the right moment. He won the stage and you took another 2nd place. Unlike stage 6, you had a great chance to win the stage. When this happens are you happy with finishing 2nd or disappointed at not winning?

I was disappointed. Because like you said, I had a big chance of winning.

Next was a brilliant 9th place in the ITT, to Cima Grappa. Be honest, how hard was it? It looked brutal!

It was much better then expected. My first climbing TT. Of course I suffered a lot, but the TT was over pretty quickly. It didn’t seem so long.

So, in your first Grand Tour, you took two 2nd places and 4 top 10 places. You also finished 4th in the KOM classification. Could you have dreamt of a race like this?

I would directly have signed, to ride this good in my first GC!

Riders often talk about the benefits of doing a Grand Tour. How did you feel after completing the race? Throughout the rest of the season, did you feel better than in previous years?

Yes, it was a big difference. Everything was much easier after the Giro.

You managed to maintain your form for Ster, where you finished 2nd to Philippe Gilbert. At this stage, did you worry that your form would start to dip?

Not really because after Ster & champ of Belgium I had a rest period planned. So it didn’t matter.

After Tour de Wallonie, where you were on the attack again, you lined up at the Eneco Tour. Before the race started, what was your ambition?

To do a good GC. But I was unsure because I was a little sick just before the Eneco tour.

You start stage 6, 49 seconds behind Dumoulin. This allowed you a little more freedom. Your attack was perfect, was this planned or did you decide to attack in the moment?

It was planned, before the race, with the team director.

As you went down the road, the others looked at each other. You had the very unique opportunity of riding up La Redoute, by yourself. How did this feel? As you looked behind you and the bunch didn’t appear, could you believe it? What emotions were you going through as you crossed the line, to take your first pro victory.

I was tremendously happy! It’s a few hours after the race that you really realise that you have won.

How did you celebrate (after the whole race)?

I did not, because I was still motivated for the rest of the season.

You went on to win the race, so not only did you win your first stage, but also your first GC. This must have been a massive moment? Did it feel like you had achieved one of your dreams?

Yes! And much sooner then expected.

Even after this you didn’t stop! 6th in Plouay and very active in the Canadian races. You seem to like riding over there, what is it about these races that get the best out of you?

I like the races in Canada. The good hotels, the parcours, the weather.

How hard was the World Championships? What was your particular role?

I had to attack before the final, this is what I did. The parcours was hard, a lot of climbing.

You finished your season off with an excellent 4th in Il Lombardia. Yet again, you attacked and was first up the final climb, before Gilbert and co, caught you. What did you think about the race and the new route?

I prefer the new route. Now, it’s much more open, I mean a lot more people can win.

So the season is over. What was your best and worst moment?

Eneco was the best, and my operation in the Winter the worst.

Are you expecting a much tougher 2015? You will now be a ”marked” rider. Do you think you’ll need to change your style of riding?

I will wait really until the final to attack. Yes it will be tougher, because if I ride the same as this season, people will say that it was not a good season. I need to progress. And it’s not easy to win a pro tour race.

As you achieved these big results, did you feel your role, in the team, begin to change?

I feel a lot more respect and belief from my teammates.

How did you cope with the extra responsibility?

Without a problem, the team is really good in this.

Could you feel the other riders, in the peloton, start to respect you more?

Yes.

There are many experienced riders in the Lotto team. What have you learned from them?

To be more calm, and not nervous.

You have now proven you can chllenge in 1 week stage races and 1 day Classics. What will be your major focus for 2015?

The Ardennes Classics, & Paris-Nice. After that I will see.

You missed the chance of returning to Australia, this year, is it on your list for 2015?

I don’t know yet. But I don’t think so.

If you could only win one race in 2015, which would it be?

The tour de france! :D No, I hope to win another pro tour race, it doesn’t matter which.

What do you think will be your biggest challenge in 2015?

To progress. To ride better then this year.

People are calling you the new Valverde! If you could compare yourself to 1 older rider, who would it be and why?

I always feel honored when people tell me I ride the same as Frank Vandenbroucke.

2014 will go down as the year Tim Wellens, stepped up to the big table. He has every chance of maintaining his progress in 2015.

David Hunter

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