Janez Brajkovic went into his first season with the UnitedHealthcare team with a lot of optimism. However, it has not gone quite as planned so far. Aside from fourth at the Abu Dhabi Tour in October, the Slovenian's year didn't quite live up to the expectation. Going into his second season, he's trying to take a more relaxed approach, but he's expecting much more from himself.
"Last year I was just pushing too much. I wanted everything at the same time, and it didn't work out. Mentally, I was stressing too much about it," Brajkovic told Cyclingnews. "I was struggling a little bit last year with sickness and, not so much bad luck, but I didn't perform as I wanted, except for Abu Dhabi my last race. I expect to be better this year to be honest.
"I know that I can go well I just need to do the work, to be calm, and that's it. I have to say, the team has confidence in me, they're not pushing. They are expecting, but they're not forcing anything."
Brajkovic joined UnitedHealthcare last season after three years on the Astana team and a decade on the WorldTour. His past performances include a top 10 placing at the 2012 Tour de France, overall victory at the 2010 Criterium du Dauphiné and a podium finish at the 2008 Giro di Lombardia.
He has taken a lot from his performance at the Abu Dhabi Tour where he finished 41 seconds behind the race winner Esteban Chaves, and he's going into the 2016 season with plenty of confidence. His preparation for the year has been far from ideal though and aside from a two-week training camp in Gran Canaria he has had very little training. That showed in the first mountain stage of the Tour de San Luis where he has begun his season for the second year running, but he is not too worried about it.
"To be honest, I had a pretty bad December being sick. The whole family was sick, one kid, second kid, wife, myself and then all over again. The day I was leaving for Grand Canaria at the end of December I was supposed to be taking antibiotics again, but I'd done it once in December and I said no way. Flying to Grand Canaria, I was still sick but after two days I was ok. At the moment, I am healthy now," he said, knocking on the table. "The season is so long that being here at 90 or 95 per cent already in May I would be going down so I think that it is better to take it as it is and not force it. I want to build it up gradually."
The 2016 season is the last one on Brajkovic's current contract with UnitedHealthcare. He tells Cyclingnews that while there have been no discussions with the team yet, he would like to remain with them into 2017. After the Tour de San Luis, Brajkovic will continue his tour of the world with the Tour of Oman and Tour de Langkawi. He'll then take a short break before the Tour of Turkey and the Tour of California.
His main goal of the year will be the Olympic Games, although he has yet to decide if he will target the time trial as well as the road race. "It depends how I go in the time trial this year," he explained. "Primarily I'll be focusing on the road race.
"I think that [the course] is hard. But riding in London was supposed to be super easy for the sprinters, I ended up in a break for the whole day, and I think that I was 11th in the end [he finished 21st in the road race and 10th in the time trial –ed]. Anything can happen. It suits me for sure better than London. I think that a top 10 is possible."