Vuelta a España: Jake Stewart making grand tour debut with good legs and confidence

Fresh off his first pro win, the Groupama-FDJ youngster is a potential outsider for punchy sprint finishes.

Photo: Bas Czerwinski/Getty Images

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UTRECHT, Netherlands (VN) – A first grand tour is both a milestone for any young professional cyclist and a journey into the unknown. Jake Stewart is embarking on his at the 2022 Vuelta a España.

“I don’t really know what to expect,” he told VeloNews. “We haven’t got a team here really for GC, we’re just going for stage wins. We’ve had a good look at the profiles and we’ll take each day as it comes.”

At the age of 22, Stewart is the whippersnapper in an experienced Groupama-FDJ lineup which includes French darling Thibaut Pinot and Sébastien Reichenbach.

“There’s a few pure sprint stages in the Netherlands and after that there’s only one or two in Spain. The rest are kind of grippy finishes and punchy stages.

“I certainly favor them a bit more. If I can try and get rid of the real fast guys and go from there,” he said.

The British racer showed what he could do in a smaller group sprint at the 2021 Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, finishing second to Davide Ballerini, the most prominent result in his two-year pro career to date.

A lot more recently, Stewart ticked off another milestone: his first win as a professional cyclist. He was tearful after sprinting to victory in stage 1 of the Tour de l’Ain in early August.

“It really lifted the spirits and took a big pressure off the shoulders. I’ve come here with a bit more confidence,” he said.

“It’s been a tough year anyway, with illness at the start of the year and COVID-19 before the Tour de Suisse. I’m excited and happy to be here, I’ve got good legs.”

Stewart will look to enjoy the experience and make the most of the race. Ultimately, what would be a good result from the Vuelta?

“A stage win is what we’ve come here to try and do,” he said. “It’s the first grand tour and a big development opportunity, and we don’t really know how the body will react over three weeks. Try and get through them and go from there.”

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