Dutchman Johnny Hoogerland (Vacansoleil) emerged as the public's favourite during the Vuelta a España, due to his multiple escapes. He earned a 12th place overall finish, and also an invitation to the World Championships Sunday in Mendrisio, Switzerland.
The Netherlands can bring only six riders in this year's Worlds road race. Hoogerland said he had tears in his eyes when national coach Leo van Vliet called him. "I was very happy. I will ride all out for the team," he told De Telegraaf.
Hoogerland, 26, said he was surprised by his new popularity, and by his own performance. "I know that everyone was full of praise. I never dreamt that I could ride so well," he told ANP.
His personal highlight of the race was the end of stage eight, when he "duelled with [David] Moncoutié" on the final climb up the Alto de Aitana, although he is not really a climber.
"What did I learn about myself? I never give up."
Another proud moment for him was when Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto) asked for his help before a stage. Evans tapped him on the shoulder, and Hoogerland modestly asked if he was in the way. No, Evans said, he wanted to know if Hoogerland might help him if he became isolate during the stage.
"It says something when such a great rider asks you that."
Hoogerland is now looking towards next season, with an eye to the later Spring Classics. He hopes to ride Amstel Gold Race, Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège.