It’s not at all often that experienced Spanish cycling TV commentator Carlos de Andres makes a mistake in identifying bike riders. Close to the summit finish of stage 2 of the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana , when Brandon McNulty (UAE Emirates) attacked, and a lanky figure in yellow and black began chasing him down, de Andres initially wrongly identified him as 2022 Giro d’Italia King of the Mountains Koen Bouwman.
In fact, the rider in question was Bouwman’s teammate Thomas Gloag , eight years the Dutchman’s junior, but at 21, putting in a storming ride in the first stage race of his first full professional season.
Finally sixth at the finish in an elite front group of nine, including all the GC favourites, Gloag’s move impressed nonetheless. He also took a risk late on stage 3 with an attack on the Alto de Garbí first category ascent, but even if that didn’t work out, race commentators were much quicker to identify the Briton this time round when he seared away.
“Obviously, I’ve not ridden at this level before, everything is kind of new in that respect, and in that sense, it’s very surprising,” Gloag told Cyclingnews before the stage.
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“But we have a team of very experienced riders here, and the boys put me in a good position, and that gave me a lot of confidence to try something in the final.”
“In that respect, I had a lot of confidence going into it, which is nice.”
Recently the province of Alicante and the nearby town of Calpe, in particular, have become enormously popular for team training camps and Gloag, like a lot of the other riders in the Valenciana peloton, has ridden a lot in the area, with the Briton reflecting, “it’s weird to be racing on the climbs and how different the roads ride in training and racing.”
“The first day, we did an up-and-down segment just past Calpe, and compared with training, we carried so much speed through it. So we recced the final climb, but it does feel different.”
In terms of strategy, Gloag said that he decided to follow McNulty “because he’s a kind of attacking rider, so he was one of the guys I expected to go for it. I was waiting for a little bit of a lull in the group, and guys don’t know who I am, so I have a little bit more freedom so when I went, everybody let me go. I had to try something, so that was nice.”
Gloag was not given so much margin when he tried on Friday to go clear in the last 30 kilometres, but he evidently has the form for Valenciana and possibly further down the line. Plus, having so much confidence placed in him despite his age is an obvious motivator.
“I’ll be doing UAE, Coppi e Bartali, Basque and the Ardennes up until April. It’s a nice different variety of races, so I’m looking forward to it.” As for Valenciana, “obviously, I’m lacking in experience, I could blow up, or I could go great, so I’m not underestimating any of the days. I’m really looking forward to getting stuck in and seeing what happens.”
As for the leadership question at such a young age, he says, “It’s just really exciting, and it’s a great organisation to be a part of, I’m really loving it.”
One rider who would have no problems identifying Gloag even without his Valenciana performances is Bahrain Victorious’ Fred Wright, who raced alongside Gloag in south London in the same club for several years.
“To be honest, not to put too much pressure on him, but I think he’s got a bright future ahead of him,” Wright told Cyclingnews at the stage 3 start. “He’s always been kicking our heads in in the little climbs in the Kent hills where we used to go training, and it’s great to see someone from our old cycling club doing so well.”
There is no doubting Gloag’s determination and focus, Wright adds. He points to a minor crash the two got caught up in early on stage 2 - “he almost took me out on a roundabout,” Wright said with a grin - before pointing out more seriously, “even with that happening, he was straight back in the bunch and fighting away.
“I think he’s going to do big things. He’s a really talented guy, and it’s nice to be racing with him, too.”
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