Bill Gates once said that success is a lousy teacher and that is an ethos to which Edward Theuns would attest. Theuns endured a difficult 2018 campaign with injury and misfortune, but the Belgian believes that it will pay dividends for him heading into this season.
Theuns is back with Trek-Segafredo this season after a failed move to Team Sunweb at the start of the 2018 season.
"In a year when it's hard, you learn the most. When it's successful and everything goes smoothly you don't learn a lot. In the past year, I learned a lot," Theuns told Cyclingnews. "It's something that you have to put in your backpack, and at the end of my career, I think I will have a big backpack. It's something you take with you, it's an experience and I think that it will help me in the future."
Theuns had been making some solid progress since stepping up to the WorldTour with Trek-Segafredo in 2016. He notched up a couple of wins in his second season with the team and decided to move to branch out to Team Sunweb and take a few more opportunities for himself. However, despite an early flash of promise at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad – where he finished sixth – the season did not really get off the ground for Theuns.
"I'm really grateful that they wanted to take me back. In a lot of teams, if you went away, they would maybe think twice about taking you back. I always felt good with the team and I went away from the team not because I didn't like it here but because I wanted to discover myself a bit and try a different option to maybe make a next step in my career. It turned out not to be a success."
His lack of performance was compounded by difficulties settling into the rigidly structured Sunweb set-up, a system that a number of riders have struggled to work with but others have flourished under. In the end, the team made the surprise announcement in October that they had mutually decided to end his contract a year early.
"It's not a secret that Sunweb has a special way of looking at cycling and how to work in cycling. I think it's maybe not a typical way to work in the cycling world and I think that some guys can go really well with it," said Theuns. "I could feel that I wasn't going as well with their system as I maybe thought up front, and I think the team also felt that I didn't really fit into the structure and the way of working with the team."
It wasn't a complete waste of time and Theuns says that, on top of what he gained from Sunweb's team of coaches, he learned a lot about himself and how to communicate better, inside and outside the cycling world.
"In general, it's about learning how to interact with other people and how to act in certain situations in a race and out of a race. How to, express certain things in a good way," he said. "That's very important because, for another person, it reflects on you. You always have to be aware of the way that you treat people or if say something in a certain way; it's pretty important in a relationship between riders and directors. Even in normal life, it helps."
After being away for a year, Theuns knows that he won't just be able to slot back into the Trek line-up where he left it. There have been some small changes with the progression of the young Mads Pedersen and the continued development of Jasper Stuyven. With that in mind, Theuns knows that he will have a little less freedom. He still hopes to make some opportunities of his own but that is not his first priority.
"I just want to find the fun again and get back to 100 per cent fitness and then I can be more precise about saying I want to win this and this," Theuns told Cyclingnews. "For sure, I want to win races and I want to try and do some sprints if the team want to give me the chance, but I also want to be there in the Classics.
"I also know that Jasper had a super good year, so I can't say to Jasper, 'hey, I'm going to be the leader here' because he's super strong and the year he had was great. He didn't have a big win in the Classics, but he was top 10 in every Classic he rode. I was super impressed by that. He's the guy that can carry the team in the Classics in the coming season and I think with the guys we have next to him we can play our cards in different ways and have different options, which makes a team stronger."
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