Floris De Tier (Alpecin-Deceuninck) leads the peloton on stage 2 of the 2022 Vuelta a España.

From Denmark to the Vuelta, Floris De Tier is five stages into a four-week grand tour

Who was the Alpecin-Deceuninck rider setting the pace for most of stage 2? Late call-up Floris De Tier.

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For much of the first road stage of the Vuelta a España, the weight of pace-setting responsibility rested squarely on the slender shoulders of Alpecin-Deceuninck’s Floris De Tier. The 30-year-old Belgian is no stranger to the Spanish Grand Tour, but he wasn’t supposed to be at the start this year. In fact, he was meant to be racing an entirely different event this weekend.

The Belgian was almost three stages into the Tour of Denmark when teammate Oscar Riesebeek crashed in training on the eve of the Vuelta team presentation, sending Alpecin-Deceuninck scrambling for a replacement.

Eventually that replacement was found in Denmark, 15 kilometres from the finish of the epic 239.3-kilometre stage on Thursday.

“They asked me on the race radio to stop,” De Tier told VeloNews. “I asked the team car why and they say ‘tomorrow, you ride the Vuelta’.”

Though he had been on the team’s shortlist and present at the pre-race altitude camp, De Tier was naturally taken by surprise, as was the team which had to dispatch staff to source all the necessary kit and bikes in time for Friday’s opening team time trial.

“It’s not in your head when you go to Denmark that you’ll be asked to go to the Vuelta.”

The Belgian climber arrived at the team hotel in Utrecht on Friday morning after spending a night in a Danish airport hotel and catching an early flight to Amsterdam Schipol, primed to start his fourth consecutive day of racing.

“The Vuelta was a bit of a goal for me, so I’m glad I’m here now,” De Tier told Het Nieuwsblad. “It was a serious disappointment that I was not there. But eventually I’m here, so we’re going to try to make the most of it.

“It will now be a four-week tour, which is something else.”

After a heavy travel day, his fourth Vuelta got off to a quiet start – De Tier cruised home 2:21 after his team which finished 15th on stage 1 – but his grace period was over for the first road stage, during which the 30-year-old was tethered to the front of the peloton to tow the bunch.

“I’m riding 100 percent for the team,” he said on Friday. “If they say tomorrow [stage 2], ride all day on the front for Tim Merlier, I do it. Maybe I’m working a bit for Jay Vine on the climbs, we’ll see what the team says. I’ll do my job.”

‘Ride all day’ is exactly what he did, one of two Alpecin-Deceuninck riders to put their noses in the wind and make a game of managing the breakaway’s margin for 115 km. The gap was slashed from about five minutes to inside 20 seconds after less than 70 kilometres of racing, at which point the peloton spread itself across the road. This allowed the breakaway breathing room to contest the only KOM of the day before being caught 12 kilometres later. 

Alpecin-Deceuninck’s tactics during the stage raised a lot of eyebrows and there was a fair bit of pressure on Merlier to deliver as a result. A close third place in the bunch sprint was their reward for the day, and they’ll hope for help from a few other teams in the coming stages.

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