After a tumultuous Grand Tour debut Cervélo TestTeam rider Serge Pauwels has indicated that this year's Giro d'Italia marked a big step forward in his career. The Belgian found himself in the thick of the action throughout this year's Giro, where he finished 21st overall and proved himself to be one of Carlos Sastre's key teammates.
"When I started this Giro it was my dream just to finish this year and that was actually my personal goal. During the three weeks it's been even better than that. Even on the stage to Vesuvius I couldn't believe that I was able to follow the big names like Ivan Basso and Lance Armstrong," he told Cyclingnews.
He finished in 60th place in Rome on Sunday after three weeks of racing.
Prior to the Giro, Pauwels' longest stage race had been a ten-day race so the three week challenge represented a leap into the unknown for him.
"Generally I have a bad day after four or five days of racing. But then after two weeks I go really well, so for me it is an important step in my career to have finished my first Grand Tour."
Pauwels was controversially denied an opportunity for a win on stage 15. Team orders saw him wait in order to provide support for his team captain, Sastre.
"That was a bit sad, not just for me but also for the team that we had some miscommunications there, but for some people I am the moral winner."
In response to his good form, Pauwels and his team have changed his programme. Pauwels' will next race in a fortnight at the Tour de Suisse and the subsequent Belgian Championships before taking a break from racing.