Illustration photo – Czech cyclist Karel Vacek (center) in the 7th stage of the Giro d'Italia on May 12, 2023. Italian Simone Petilli on the left, Davide Bais on the right.
Prague – Karel Vacek was the only one of the three Czech cyclists at the start who managed to reach the finish line of the Giro d'Italia race on Sunday. He finished the first Grand Tour of the year as the 84th overall rider. However, in addition to completing the demanding stage race, he fulfilled his pre-start resolution with a partial success, as he flashed second place in the seventh stage. As he stated in an interview given by the agency Sportegy, which represents him, he gained invaluable experiences and memories that cannot be erased from memory.
The 22-year-old road rider made it to the Corratec-Selle Italia team for the 106th edition of the Giro at the last minute. And because of that, he was able to take with him the memories of a lifetime. “I will remember the whole three weeks. From the first day when I clicked on and started the race, until the last moment when I clicked the pedal and the Giro was over. You are like a sponge and you absorb everything. These will be experiences that I will draw on for the rest of my career ,” stated Vacek.
This is also why he perceives the possibility of riding the Giro as a whole, from which it is difficult to select the strongest moments. But he found one after all. “I will definitely remember the second place after finishing the Gran Sasso until the day I die. I believe that I will look at the Giro again and be able to use the experience, I will already know the hills. For a cyclist, the first Grand Tour is like when a child goes to school for the first time. It was the temporary peak of my cycling life,” declared Vacek.
According to his earlier words, the second place in the seventh stage saved him to some extent. “I'm still processing the fact that I was able to come second in the stage of the Grand Tour race, which in my opinion was also the most difficult in terms of profile. The weather conditions were very difficult in Italy this year, I think it was one of the most difficult Grand Tours in recent years. Almost sixty people withdrew, which is not a little. It just proves how difficult a race I managed to complete. I'm still absorbing it. The Giro saved my cycling life, which I want to live and always wanted. The second place in the stage was an impulse that it really can be done,” declared Vacek .
The race confirmed to him that he is back on the right track. “There were a lot of brutally difficult moments, but there were also stages that could be handled calmly. The Giro mainly pushed my pain threshold a lot. My engine is now completely somewhere else. Starts that used to hurt me start to hurt me much later. Mentally a person moves, because he really suffers a lot on the Grand Tour. I believe that after the Giro, really tough conditions in the race would have to come to break me,” Vacek described his feelings.
He still wants to work on the self-confidence aspect. “Mentally, a race like this pushes a person incredibly, because the body really can handle everything. It's just a matter of the head, how much effort the body will allow. But I still lack the setting that I go to the start with the expectation that I will win. It will take some time, but I definitely have greater self-confidence from the point of view of what my body can do and endure. I would not have expected that I would be able to manage it like this every day. Even in terms of food and compliance with everything around,” Vacek admitted. “I rarely boast, but this time I can say that I am satisfied and at peace. We will see where it will develop and move,” he added.
He achieved the desired arrival in Rome despite the health problems he struggled with in the last third week. “It was the most challenging because after a day off in Bergamo, when I relaxed and rested, I got sick. Some flu, stomach problems and mainly inflammation of the respiratory tract, so phlegm, cough, runny nose and sore throat. It was terribly difficult . I fought with myself, but I couldn't give up. I practically didn't sleep, so the performances in the last week were like a roller coaster. It was extremely difficult, because the last week had the most hills, the hardest stages, and on top of that, I was sick,” he said Vacek.
He believes that he did a good job overall and impressed even elite teams with his performances. “Of course, everything can always be done better, but I'm happy with my performance. I'm ambitious and I'll always try to do everything to be able to win. I put even more into the Giro than I thought I could, so now I'm he will rest well and I will ride even better in the next races. It would be a dream if I could move somewhere higher in the future,” Vacek dreamed.
“I am an optimist and I know that there are many good cyclists and it's not easy at all to make it to the World Tour. But the season isn't over yet. And if I build on the Giro in other races, an offer might come. That's my goal now. I'll do everything so that at the end of the year I don't regret that I could to do more for the World Tour contract,” said Vacek.