UAE is a top team. Globally among the top five, with the world’s number one in the ranks. This is also noticeable in the entourage, says Tim Wellens in the Spanish La Nucía. “They are strong characters, driven and demanding. Everything must be 100 percent in order. I personally find it pleasant to work this way. As a newcomer I am rather timid and quiet. Until I have accomplished or proven something, it is not for me to stir. So I stand aside and look at everyone who does things that I would have done myself at Lotto.”
Wellens says he was satisfied with Lotto. “Only my results went downhill in recent years, so I chose to step out of my comfort zone, to discover new things. That will hopefully lead to success in competitions where I’ve never known it before. I am talking in the first place about big races, classics. Without wanting to sound derogatory: I didn’t come to UAE to win another stage in the Challenge Mallorca. I will start my season on it soon.”
This spring he will ride part of the Flemish races and then switch to the Walloon, in function of Tadej Pogacar. “Wherever he starts, I sacrifice myself completely,” says Wellens. “But there are also races that he doesn’t drive. I want to take my own chance in that.”
After the Tour de France, it became remarkably quiet around 31-year-old Wellens. At one point it was even scary. “I left the Tour after a positive covid check. When I resumed in the Tour of the Ain afterwards, I didn’t find my way and I got heart palpitations on a regular basis. After an electrocardiography, the doctor was concerned. I underwent another scan and some exercise tests and walked with a holter for 24 hours (device that monitors the electrical activity of the heart, ed.). But in the end nothing happened. I came into action a few more times, but in my head I had already closed the season.”
After a difficult delivery of his son, he was ready for a reset, says Wellens. “But now things are going well again. The goal is to be at my best in March, April, through a completely new way of working. More than before, I now train in the so-called zone 2: an ‘impressive’ pace, without really suffering. Bit old school. Every workout is pretty much a time trial. In principle, I am not allowed to deviate from that zone, which means that I can no longer go cycling with other people. You are driving too fast.
“Will this new method work? Who knows. I want to give them a chance anyway, because I don’t just want to win a classic but also become the good time trialist of two or three years ago again. This way I have an extra weapon for the shorter rounds.”
He has now been released from the captain’s status. “It is a luxury, I do not deny that. At Lotto I was one of the big earners and I had to substantiate that status. The switch to UAE has certainly not made me poorer financially, but here at least ten others earn the same or even more and I can operate from the shadows. In this way I want to return to the level that I expect from myself.”