How are you? Are you still suffering problems from your Tour de Suisse crash and concussion?
"I’m usually able to recover well, and as a GC rider, that is the most important thing. Here in the Vuelta, I’m in a different role because I’m not going for the GC. I feel that I not used to this role. In the third stage, for example, I was very good, but the next day, I wasn’t."
With the loss of Steven Kruijswijk, the main objective of the Vuelta is gone. How does that change things for the team?
"We are going to try to regroup as much as possible. For me, the plan remains the same. It is important to race the Vuelta towards next year. After my crash in Switzerland, I wasn’t able to train, mainly because I was very tired. I hope to have a higher level in the second half of the Vuelta and do something beautiful."
Is it realistic to go for a stage victory?
"To win a stage in a grand tour you must be at a high level. When I came here on my best level, I could go for a good GC. That is not the case and that is why we have chosen a different option. You cannot just attack from the start of a stage, because you have to be strong to do that. You should always believe in it, though. If the opportunity presents itself and I feel good, I'll try it."
You’re roommate is Koen Bouwman during the Vuelta. Are you mentoring him?
"I knew Koen even before he joined our team. We both come from eastern Holland, and it’s fun to be together in the team. I’ve been pro for about 10 years more than him. Things that are logical for others in this team, can sometimes be new for him. We’ve had some fun chats about it. He is a quiet boy with a true racing-character. I’m anxious to see how he goes in these three weeks."
Does it remind you of your first grand tour?
"No, it was quite different. I rode my first Vuelta, my first grand tour, for a good GC and placed seventh. He's here in a different role, but there are certainly some similarities. It is nice to see him learning. Enthusiastically, he attacked at the foot of a climb in the fourth stage with still ten kilometres uphill. He almost had to pay for that effort. To attack is nice, but you have to make sure you do it at exactly the right time. It does indicate that he has a lot of courage and fighting spirit, and that’s good."
Are there more races on the programme for you after the Vuelta?
"Yes, the Giro di Lombardia. I assume that I’ll race there and then the season is over. But first, my focus is still on the Vuelta!"