“For me personally, the goal is to get better,” Hamilton told Cyclingnews earlier this week, adding that he wanted to “get to the third week strong and chase some stage wins late.”
Hamilton’s straightforward attitude to the Vuelta is only too logical after his brutally difficult last two Grand Tours.
In 2020 he had been riding well in the Giro d’Italia, had taken seventh in a tough summit finish of Roccaraso and was lying 15th overall when his squad was forced to abandon because of multiple COVID-19 positive tests from within the team.
Then in 2021 in the Tour de France, Hamilton was caught up in the same crash that left teammate Simon Yates out for the count and had to quit injured as well.
Hence his shift of target to the Vuelta a España and his first participation in the Spanish Grand Tour, where the 25-year-old is on what he calls “not quite a voyage in the dark.” But it’s almost like that.
“On Monday I’d climbed that climb in Burgos [Picón Blanco] but I’m not familiar with a lot of the territory, so in other parts of Spain it’s all new to me. But sometimes that’s nice in a race, it makes it more exciting.”
One familiar ingredient in the Vuelta a España, at least for an Australian, is the heat. As Hamilton puts it, “it’s a bit like the Tour Down Under for three weeks here. No one likes it super hot, I’d be lying if I told you I liked the 40-degree days. But I certainly prefer the heat to the cold.”
Hamilton admits that having had some time off after the Tour and with only the Olympic Road Race in between, it’s not been straightforward coming back into a high-powered race like the Vuelta on a week of training. The first time trial in particular was described by Hamilton as “quite painful.”
“Bling [Michael Matthews] is in awesome form, though, and there are a lot of stages that suit him and where I can support him in that," Hamilton said.
“Later in the race, my goals are the high mountains, so there’s never any clashes. We’re willing to help each other, we’ve been racing together all year and working well together.”
As a gifted climber, Hamilton says he prefers the longer, full-day-out type of mountain stages rather than a single ascent at the end of the day like Picón Blanco last Monday or Cullera on Thursday.
Despite completing the Vuelta being one of his goals, he says that there is no sense of ticking off the days as the stages pass by.
“I’m here to race and I love racing,” he concluded. “It’s a new race and exciting with that. I’m looking forward to it all.”
Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. Apart from working for Cyclingnews.com, he is also the cycling correspondent for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.
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