Peter Velits burst onto the international scene when he won the U23 World Championship in Stuttgart last September. The win also brought him (as well as his twin brother Martin) a ProTour contract with Team Milram. Cyclingnews' Susan Westemeyer caught up with the modest Slovakian just before Liège-Bastogne-Liège to see how he is adjusting to the ProTour.
23-year-old Peter Velits is one of several exciting new talents in the ProTour peloton. The Slovakian, along with his twin brother Martin formed part of Team Milram's young squad this season. While Peter hasn't yet brought in any wins this season, his aggressive riding style and past palmares suggest that a break-out season is coming soon. As a member of Continental Team Konica Minolta in 2005-2006 he took a number of wins, including the Slovakian U23 time trial title. Last year he moved up to Professional Continental team Wiesenhof-Felt, where he won the Grand Prix de Fourmies, before going on to win the U23 Worlds title in Stuttgart.
Winning the U23 Worlds title "was a great feeling," he said. "I didn't fully realize it until two weeks after the event." The title was important to him for two reasons. "It was a good experience for me to see that it is possible for me to set a goal, prepare yourself for it for a long time and then to achieve it. That made me very proud and showed me that it is worth while to prepare yourself for a goal because it is really possible to achieve it."
There was a more practical reason, too. "Besides this, it was the opening day to the big cycling circus and I have a lot of good memories of this day!" Velits had good reason to be happy about the Milram contract. Not only was he joining the ProTour, but he was assured that he would be able to continue riding – the sponsor of his Team Wiesenhof-Felt had already announced that it would stop at the end of the season, and ultimately the team had to fold.
He turned pro in 2005 with Team Konica Minolta, and says that there is a big difference between the South African Continental team and the ProTour Team Milram. "Last year Wiesenhof-Felt was a big step if you take a look at the quality of the service and of the races. And now Team Milram is definitely the top. I don't think it can be more professional than what I experience here."