After overcoming a difficult start to his first season in the WorldTour, Robert Vrecer got his moment in the spotlight last month by forming part of a Samuel Sánchez-led Euskaltel formation at the Giro d'Italia.
At the ripe old age of 32, it was the Slovenian's maiden Grand Tour. Sánchez might not have performed to expectations, but it was nonetheless a moment to savour for Vrecer when he rolled across the finish line in Brescia last Sunday.
"First of all I'd like to thank the team for giving me the chance to contribute in Italy - I've got a lot of nice memories from the race", the amicable all-rounder tells Basque Cycling News. "Overall I have to say I'm satisfied with my performances. I would have wanted to get into more breakaways, though. I tried many times, but it's hard and you need luck on your side.
"I was really tired fhe first few days after having completed the race. My legs were completely destroyed. Now, though, I'm starting to recover. Hopefully I'll perform well in the Tour de Suisse and the national championships coming up".
The three-week race was for large parts - like a lot of the racing on the Continent has been thus far this season - beset by atrocious weather.
Vrecer felt the full force of the near-incessant rain and low temperatures, but he says having to pull the peloton in the mountains on the penultimate day was the hardest part he had to do.
"The third week was the toughest because of the rain and the cold weather, but also because my legs weren't feeling as fresh anymore. The 20th stage was for sure the hardest. I had to push the pace at the head of the pack for a long time", he says, referring to the team's eventually failed attempt to set up Sánchez for a tilt at the stage win. "The first part I did solo, then my team-mates helped me out later on. It was so hard - both because of the challenging profile and the strong head-wind".
Speaking of hard, Vrecer got everything but the ideal start to life at the sport's top table: Back in January, he fractured his collarbone on his very first outing for the team.
Debuts don't come much worse than that, but he hasn't let that episode detract from his overall impression of his first months at Euskaltel.
"I'm feeling very positive. All the riders and the staff have been really helpful and friendly. For example, I needed a lot of help with my Spanish to begin with. And I also like the Basque fans - they're crazy, but in a positive way. In the Giro d'Italia I got to see and feel what it means to ride for a Basque team. I really like it!"
Photo: Euskaltel Euskadi