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Vuelta a Espana

Doing the Vuelta a España with 24 hours’ notice: Floris De Tier’s race from Tour of Denmark to the Netherlands

Planes, bikes and automobiles for last-minute Alpecin-Deceuninck replacement: 'I won’t forget this moment for the rest of my life'

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UTRECHT, Netherlands (VN) – On the morning of the first stage of the 2022 Vuelta a España, Alpecin-Deceuninck rider Floris De Tier woke up not in Utrecht, but 700 kilometers away in a Danish airport hotel.

This wasn’t a bad dream, it was a surprise reality. His teammate Oscar Riesebeek had crashed during training Wednesday morning in the Netherlands, sustaining a thumb fracture and dislocated finger, and they needed a rapid replacement.

Step forward De Tier. The Belgian was racing stage 3 of the Tour of Denmark on Thursday when he got the news. “The last 15k, they asked me on the race radio to stop,” he told VeloNews. “I asked the team car why and they say ‘tomorrow, you ride the Vuelta.’”

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“That was a bit stressy to know, of course. Also, it was a long day there – 240 kilometers, and it was after 220 kilometers I found out.”

The plan had been made. He abandoned the race and went to the team bus. Then, De Tier was taken to Billund Airport, slept at a hotel overnight and flew out on the six o’clock red-eye to Amsterdam Schipol. Hardly well rested for a grand tour.

It required a logistical shuffle too. While he had his Tour of Denmark clothing with him, an Alpecin-Deceuninck car drove to the Netherlands and another one to Denmark, took his respective bikes and headed to Utrecht.

It was more unwanted drama for the team this summer, who pulled out of the Tour of Poland at the start of August after five COVID-19 cases from team staff.

A surprise selection

The 30-year-old De Tier had been on the team’s shortlist and altitude training camp before the Vuelta. When he was not selected, he became one of the two reserves. Nevertheless, the late call-up was a shock.

“It’s not in your head when you go to Denmark that you’ll be asked to go to the Vuelta,” he said.

It also affected Alpecin-Deceuninck’s TTT preparation. Their original lineup trained on the racing circuit at Zolder without De Tier and the man he replaced, Oscar Riesebeek, is 20 centimeters taller. That meant a different aerodynamic CdA to factor in and a change to the order.

De Tier made it to Utrecht in time to start the opening TTT. Photo: Alpecin-Deceuninck

The Belgian-registered team finished 15th on stage 1, 1:03 down on winners Jumbo-Visma. Given the Danish kilometers in his legs, it’s little surprise the opening test was tough for De Tier. He lost over two minutes to his teammates.

“It was a bit hard,” he said. “The TTT is also really stressful.”

Now he’s unexpectedly here, what’s his job for the race? “I’m riding 100 percent for the team. If they say tomorrow, ride all day on the front for Tim Merlier, I do it. Maybe I’m working a bit for Jay Vine on the climbs, we’ll see what the team says. I’ll do my job.”

De Tier has finished the three Vuelta a España editions he started, but this kind of thing has never happened to him before. The domestique faces the prospect of essentially a three-and-a-half-week bike race.

“It’s not like another one-day race, it’s a grand tour,” he said, sounding as if he is still coming to terms with his change of plans. “It’s really special. I’ll never forget this moment for the rest of my life.”

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