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Dylan Groenewegen is looking forward to a fresh start in 2022.
For Groenewegen, his winter move to BikeExchange-Jayco is a chance to wipe the slate clean following a difficult couple of seasons.
After contesting just 11 days during the COVID-19 disrupted 2020 season, he was handed a nine-month ban for his part in Fabio Jakobsen’s horrific crash at the Tour of Poland that year. He eventually returned to racing in May of 2021, but the ups and downs took a toll on his confidence.
By stepping into a new team for 2022, he stripped away some of the mental and emotional baggage he was carrying and is ready for something new.
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“Last year, I was not the same person on the bike. The confidence was not there,” he told VeloNews. “It was a really long break, also with the COVID break, and then with the ban, it was a really long time. I was really happy that I was back in the races but I started at the Giro, one of the biggest races, so that was hard as my condition was not really good.
“Now with the new team, the new step. It gives me a lot of confidence and also with the riders in the team are really motivated. I’m also really motivated and that gives me a really nice confidence.”
Groenewegen was a surprise late entry to the Giro d’Italia last season, having previously had a campaign of smaller races scheduled to build him up. It was a jump right into the deep end after such a long period away.
A fourth place in the second stage was the best that he could manage as he struggled to find his groove and he eventually left the race midway through the second week. Though it was not the return the racing he might have hoped for, there were some positives he could take from it.
“It was not the best start for me, it was hard,” Groenewegen said. “Maybe it was better to start in Hungary or something but after a long time out of competition I wanted to go back into races and do a lot of races so for that it was okay, but yeah to win some races it was too hard.
“I wasn’t riding races for 14 months or something, so it was a really long time. Maybe the Giro was too hard for me to make my comeback to win some races. But of course, it was good for my condition.”
There were some highlights to his 2021 season, such as his wins at the Tour de Wallonie, but it was an unusual year that never really got flying. Groenewegen is happy to have the year, and a relatively uneventful winter, behind him.
“It was a really strange season. It was really short, and the program was okay but there are not a lot of sprint chances for me,” he said. “The races were really hard for me, but it was nice to do. But now I have a normal winter. I have done everything in a good way. Training has been really good, I have been eating good, so I’m ready for the races to come.”
Groenewegen has got his first race in BikeExchange-Jayco colors in his legs at the Saudi Tour. It didn’t quite go to plan on stage 1 with the Dutchman finding himself out of position for the final sprint to the line, which was won by Caleb Ewan.
However, there will be several more opportunities to test out his new sprint train over the coming days and at the forthcoming UAE Tour.