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Vermeulen’s power-packed debut set to continue in Vuelta

After racing the Dauphiné and other big spring WorldTour races, American Alexey Vermeulen is keen to race his debut grand tour this season.

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MILAN (VN) — American Alexey Vermeulen dove into the deep end in his WorldTour debut as a neo-professional. He raced five WorldTour events including the Critérium du Dauphiné last week with the Tour de France stars and is scheduled for two more: the Tour of Poland and possibly the Vuelta a España.

The 21-year-old with Dutch WorldTour team LottoNL – Jumbo has a few days to take it all in. He is spinning easy around his base in Girona, Spain and planning a trip to see his aunt in London. But then it’s back to business.

“The Vuelta is still unknown, but it’s a big goal and has been on my schedule all year,” Vermeulen said. “I want to race it. It will give me a huge step ahead as a neo-pro to race and put me in a good place for my second year in 2017.”

Assuming it all goes to plan, Vermeulen will race around 72 days this year — 51 in WorldTour events.

“It’s gone to plan so far,” he said. “Actually, this is one race less than I thought I’d be racing. I was down to do the País Vasco stage race, but didn’t because Wilco Kelderman didn’t feel good in Catalunya and needed to participate in another race, so he took my spot. The team has been watching over me, though, making sure I’m not in over my head.

“It’s been a lot of racing. I’m not tired, but mentally, I’m a bit bored with the routine. The U.S. trip with the Tour of California and the nationals helped because it gave me a bit of a metal boost just being home and not being the foreign one. It was nice being the one that my teammates turned to ask, ‘Where’s the nearest Starbucks?'”

The cyclist from Ann Arbor, Michigan wants to develop for the grand tours. Being in the Dauphiné and other races such as the Tour de Romandie helped him this year as he was side-by-side at times with the men winning the big three-week races.

“In the Dauphiné, I didn’t have the best race. Everyone was flying. They are flipping fast,” he added. “I saw that on the first day mountain time trial. I went as fast as I could but then I saw the others’ times, and it was so eye-opening.

“And the last three days in the mountains … I tried to escape one day and I ended up being spit out the back. I was in the gruppetto with guys like John Degenkolb and Alexander Kristoff, strong riders, but not the place where I thought I belonged. But that last day helped, being there with George Bennett. I left the race on a good note being the last one to stay and support him in that mountain stage.”

Midway into the Tour of Poland this July, Vermeulen should find out if he will race the Vuelta, August 20 to September 11. It depends on how his teammates fare in the Tour and who the team wants in the Vuelta. Vermeulen has his hand up, eager to finish his debut year with another WorldTour event.