Brent Bookwalter (BMC Racing) kicked his grand tour career off with a narrow miss in the prologue of the 2010 Giro d’Italia. Bookwalter followed his second-place breakthrough up with solid rides through the Giro and Tour de France and told VeloNews Thursday about the toll — and benefits — he saw from those efforts.
In just four seasons, Bookwalter, 26, went from neo-pro and collegiate champion to the sensation of the Giro opener. Three months later, he was running on fumes after riding into Paris among seven of nine of the team’s starters, including one-time maillot jaune Cadel Evans.
“I was hugely relieved and overwhelmed, but also super motivated to conquer something that was so unexpected, that I hadn’t planned to do at the beginning of the year,” Bookwalter told VeloNews. “I was actually more burnt or fatigued than I acknowledged to myself right after the Tour. I came back to the States and was excited to have finished and was proud of the team’s effort there.”
After a quick stop at home in Georgia, Bookwalter went to the Tour of Utah. The fatigue set in at altitude and stayed with the former Utah stage winner through the national championships in mid-September. Bookwalter admitted that he took on too much, too soon after his second three-week race of the year.
The Lees-McRae College graduate cut his season early. “I had more residual fatigue in the legs and the body after two grand tours, which requires more time off, which leaves a little more cobwebs in the legs to clean out at the beginning of the year,” he said.
Two weeks after nationals Bookwalter returned to his alma mater to be inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame. “It was great to go back up there and see that the program was alive and well,” said the seven-time collegiate national champion. “All of the effort and energy that I invested in that program over the four years I was there is effort well spent and the program is continuing to improve. I still feel a part of that, so it’s really exciting.”
Fast forward three months and Bookwalter is at the team’s training camp in Denia, Spain, feeling rested and enjoying the upside of his heavy racing load from a year ago. “Generally I feel strong,” he said. “I definitely have a new appreciation, a new perspective on the kind of training sensations, what my body’s going through in these early training phases at the beginning of the year.”
Bookwalter will debut in Italy at the Trofeo Laigueglia before the five-day Giro di Sardegna in late February.
“It looks as of now like I’ll have a really good program with some one-week stage races in the early part of the year, hopefully building up for a good ride at Tour of California, nationals and then hopefully the goal is to come back to Europe after nationals, do Tour de Suisse and be there for the start of the Tour,” said Bookwalter.
The emerging prologue specialist said he has seen increased support from his BMC team early this year. He spent time in the A2 wind tunnel in North Carolina in December and is getting dialed into his new TT01 time trial rig, equipped with a Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 electronic group.
“I feel like I stepped up last year in the time trials and I feel like in turn the team has stepped up their support,” said Bookwalter, who in the same breath admitted that he has a lot of room for growth. “I feel like I’ve been working and building up to this point for a long time. It’s hard to prove yourself. I feel like I have a lot more to prove, a lot more to show, but it’s nice to have gotten to where I got last year. Hopefully I can keep on going from there.”
With the Giro/Tour double in his legs, Bookwalter said that his form is ahead of where it was in January 2010. Without prologues at California and the Tour, Bookwalter hoped increased focus on the time trial bike in training would transfer into improved numbers in the longer time trials.
“I definitely feel stronger than I did this time last year and I hope that bodes well for the rest of the year,” he said.