Brent Bookwalter (BMC Racing Team) has had a busy year and he’s not done yet. Immediately after the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah, he will make his way to Spain to race at the Vuelta a España.
“I had a little bit of a break after Tour of Austria before this race, the biggest one that I’ve had all year, kind of been racing, racing, racing all year and get a week between races at the most and then onto the next. I really needed some rest after Austria.” Bookwalter told podiuminsight.
“I got to go home and actually spend two weeks there which is really nice, and didn’t train a whole lot, tried to bank a little rest and bank some morale because I’m supposed to head to the Vuelta right after this.”
Bookwalter did his best to come to Utah fresh ahead of his big five week block of racing. “I don’t feel that I’m very tuned up but so far I had good feeling on the climbs the first day and I felt good on the climbs. Obviously it’s a good little confidence boost to try my hand in the sprints and get a couple of results as well.
The 28-year old rider has been showing good form and showing off his sprinting legs at Utah by grabbing two third place finishes so far. After his first podium on stage 1, the team decided to give it another go on Wednesday’s stage.
“We don’t have a team here of sprinters and I think most of the guys here have never been part of a lead-out at the races we do. We wanted to give it a shot, we’re all pretty strong guys, we’re all fit and capable and wanted to give a good run.”
Once his teammate Johann Tschopp had been reeled in from the break, the sprint was on and the team almost took the win, But Michael Matthews (Rabobank) was able to come around at the end for the win, edging out BMC’s Michael Schär and Bookwalter, who claimed another third.
“The guys did a super awesome job of lining it out right at the perfect time and came up a little short against Matthews but we’re still content about our effort considering the squad we have here and our limited experience in that type of finish.”
With two stages to go and lots and lots of climbing, tbe BMC riders are in great position on the GC, all stacked up around the one minute mark down from yellow jersey Christian Vande Velde (Garmin-Sharp).
“The two big mac daddy stages on Saturday and Sunday.” commented Bookwalter who is the highest placed rider for the BMC team, at 50 seconds down.
“We’re all right there together right around that minute mark and we have some guys that are normally better than me on the long climbs that we’re going to see those last two days so, whether I’m playing a support role for them or maybe I come good and have good feelings and good legs for those days then I’ll obviously go for it but there’s a lot of racing still to be played out.”
Once this race is over, Bookwalter will hightail it to Europe, with less than one week before the start of his next race. He admits that it might be a little ambitious to do both Utah and the Vuelta with the jetlag and the tight turnaround but his other option was the Eneco Tour in Belgium. “That race is kind of dangerous and it’s a ProTour race so the field is a lot deeper. The stress of the race is probably higher than it is here I think even with the altitude and the demanding course here.”
This choice was worth it because it gave Bookwalter the opportunity to spend time at home with his wife Jamie who races on the Colavita-espnW squad. “So hopefully it goes well, we’ll see. It’s a little bit of an experiment but it got me home, it got me to the US, it got me some more time with Jamie, that’s important, it counts for a lot. If your head is not in the right place, the body is not going to follow no matter what kind of power you can theoretically do.”
Not the first Grand Tour. Bookwalter raced both the Giro d’Italia and the Tour de France in 2010. He was also part of the BMC squad at the Tour in 2011 helping his teammate Cadel Evans win the overall. Understandably not being selected for the Tour in 2012 was a disappointment in a year that he described as “decent”.
“I haven’t had any miraculous standout performances, didn’t get selected to go to the Tour which is a little bit of a hit but no matter how old I get or how long I do this, it’s still another year of learning and adapting and adjusting.” he said.
“The team is obviously a lot different this year than it was last year, and almost a completely different team than it was five years ago when I started with them. Another year of, as I like to say it, chipping away at it, learn about myself and my teammates and learning how to manage myself in different circumstances and environments with all these new guys.”
But he is excited about the Vuelta which starts Saturday August 18 in Pamplona, Spain. He will accomplish something that not many Americans have done, and that is race all three Grand Tours.
“It will be cool. I’ve done the Giro, I’ve done the Tour, there’s some motivation there just to do it and to experience something new. I don’t think that there’s a lot of Americans in the peloton that have done all three Grand Tours. I take some pride in having the opportunity to just do that and being in the position now at the age that I am to do that. Hopefully it will be a good experience and come out of there with something for the team and myself.”
The team will be focusing on stage wins at the Vuelta.
“We’re going to have a different team than we had at the Tour obviously. We don’t have Cadel (Evans), we don’t have Tejay (van Garderen). We don’t have a GC responsibility per say but we have guys like (Philippe) Gilbert and (Alessandro) Ballan who will hopefully be good for maybe some stage victory hunting and I think a decently well-rounded team otherwise too. We have Amaël Moinard, he’s had some good successes out of a breakaway at the Grand Tours. Steve Cummings, he’s had a slow start to the season but he was really good at the Tour.”
In many ways, the Vuelta a España will be a new experience for him. “It will be kind of nice, actually I haven’t had the experience yet of doing a Grand Tour without the team shouldering the responsibility of a GC hope like Cadel. The first one I did, Cadel was hunting the GC at the Giro two years ago, that was my first Grand Tour,”
Bookwalter concluded, “Hopefully I can adapt to the new environment and find my place in the team, in the race and hunt down some success.”