Edward Theuns on getting back his mojo with Trek-Segafredo
Edward Theuns came home to Trek-Segafredo for the 2019 season. The Belgian rode with the team in 2016 and 2017 but opted to pen a deal with the German Team Sunweb for 2018, a move that did not work out for team or rider, and they mutually agreed to terminate the contract a year early. When Trek-Segafredo offered to take Theuns back, he didn’t hesitate.
I was really happy to come back to the team after a hard year in 2018. I was super comfortable in the team but made a choice to try something different and signed for Team Sunweb. Ultimately, it didn't work out. Coming back to Trek-Segafredo felt like coming home and was an opportunity I truly appreciated because, to be honest, they didn't have to take me back. I think the fact the team re-signed me showed that they really like me, recognize my value and have the confidence in my abilities, so I think it's great that we got back together.
While the homecoming was a happy reunion for both parties, it was not without hiccups, namely an under-par Classics campaign. But the 28-year-old Belgian bounced back and finished the season with two victories, effectively ending a winless drought of nearly two years.
Overall, Theuns ended with a respectable haul of 13 top 10 results over 78 race days. He also extended his contract for two more years with Trek-Segafredo.
TFS: You’re motivated to be back with Trek-Segafredo, but the classics season didn’t quite go to plan. In your perspective, what went wrong?
ET: There wasn’t a key reason, just little things that didn’t fall into place. Everyone worked really hard and had great form coming into the spring, but sometimes it doesn’t come together. I think overall, the level was high, but the team, and myself perhaps, lacked a bit of luck to get nice results. In the beginning, the mood is high, and you keep fighting to get results, but after a while, desperation starts to set in when you see the classics season is coming to an end, and we are lacking a big win. We, for sure, had a super strong team for the classics, and I’m confident that we’ll be even stronger next season and extra motivated to have the World Champion in the squad.
TFS: Despite a slow-burning start, you finished the season on a strong note. Can you tell us about your win in the Primus Classic, and what that meant for you and the team?
ET: I think that the second part of the year was great, not just for the whole team but also for me personally. I felt a lot better in the second part of the year. The Binck Bank Tour and the Vuelta were races where I really wanted to get good results, and I got good results but never actually got a win. I wouldn’t say it was frustrating because I was happy with my performance. I was doing well, and the sprints were going well, but as a cyclist and a professional athlete, you always want to win.
Fortunately, I came out of the Vuelta with great form, and the team was also going well coming into the Belgian one-day races. I believe the first one was GP de Wallonie, where Jasper (Stuyven) was second, and then I won the Primus Classic.
The way I won that race was very special because I never thought I could win a race in that manner. I watched the replay a couple of times after the race, and it was truly amazing. All the puzzle pieces came together. Mads was there, Jasper was there, Alex (Kirsch) was there, and we all made such a great team effort. I was the lucky one who took the win, but if you look back at the footage from the race, you can see after the finish that all my teammates were super happy for me.
It was a long time since I had won a race, almost two years, so I was already getting a bit desperate that I would have another season without a win. I was super happy to win that race, particularly because it was close to the Worlds, so everybody was on top form – it wasn’t an easy race to win by any means.
Now the focus is to carry this good vibe and winning momentum into the next season.
TFS: And after winning the Primus Classic, you raised your arms in victory once more at the Japan Cup Criterium…
ET: Yes, after the Primus Classic, I tried to keep going on that good form, and Japan was a bit of an extra for me because I was not planned to do that race, but I asked to go. I was still feeling good, and I wanted to try to take advantage of the shape I had. Fortunately, the team agreed to take me.
It was only a criterium, but I think it was important, especially for the confidence looking ahead to the new season. The Japan Cup races are massive for Trek Japan, so it was super nice that we could win the criterium and then the day after the Japan Cup with Bauke (Mollema). It was a perfect finish for the season.
TFS: Looking forward to 2020, what are your goals?
ET: The first thing for me is obviously the classics. It’s a huge goal, not just for me but for the team. We have a strong team, and I believe I can play an important role in those races. We don’t really have one leader for the classics; instead, we have a lot of strong guys, and I think we have to use that to our advantage. We won a couple of races [this way] at the end of this season, and I believe we should race the classics in the same manner in 2020. The most important thing is that we get some victories in the Classics season with the team.
Secondly, I would like to do a Grand Tour. My racing schedule hasn’t been fully decided by the team, but I’ve always loved the Tour de France. I have some good memories – and also bad memories – from the Tour, but when I took the white jersey on my very first Tour de France stage back in 2016, it was unforgettable.
Finally, I want to finish the season strongly like I did this year and win a one-day race in Belgium. I like those races, and if you still have enough motivation and good form, then you can get good results there.
TFS: For 2020, established riders like Vincenzo Nibali are joining the squad but also an influx of young guns. What do you think of the young reinforcements for next season?
ET: I think it’s a good move by the team towards the future to put the faith in these young guys and allow them to grow at their own tempo. They are young guys who are less experienced, but they also have a lot of talent. We will have to see how they adapt to the team and to the new way of working, but I think that’s how you develop potential winners of big races. The team did something similar with Mads, and now he’s World Champion, so I think it’s super positive for the team to invest in young talent.
TFS: How do you feel to have your teammate Mads Pedersen as the new World Champion, and do you think it brings more responsibility to have the rainbow stripes in the team?
ET: It’s definitely something that makes us proud as a team and gives us extra motivation to perform at the highest level. In a way, it’s like we have a collective desire as a team to honor and “defend” that jersey in the peloton. I think it gives us all a little bit of responsibility. I mean, most of the burden will rest on Mads shoulders because with the rainbow jersey, you can no longer hide in the peloton, and that’s not always easy.
They will not let him go so easily like they might have done in the past sometimes, and if he attacks, that will make our opponents react. Nevertheless, I think it’s a super positive thing for us, and we don’t have to be scared about taking responsibility with the world champion. The rainbow jersey already gave the whole team a lot of motivation, and I believe it will continue to do so throughout next year.