Willie Smit has spoken out about the inferior treatment suffered by ProTeam riders, saying some members of the Vuelta a España peloton have judged him by his jersey, and not what he is capable of as a rider.
The South African is riding the Spanish Grand Tour for ProTeam Burgos-BH, the 27-year-old having previously spent two seasons riding for WorldTour outfit Katusha-Alpecin before the team folded at the end of 2019.
"So in the Vuelta I had a couple of experiences of riders telling us to move to the back because according to them we're not high enough on the hierarchy/GC," Smit wrote on Twitter (opens in new tab), then going on to explain the hypocrisy as no-one minded him being at the front in last year's Spanish Grand Tour when he was riding at WorldTour level with Katusha-Alpecin.
"I laughed and said 'you have a problem with my shirt because when I was in Katusha I never experienced this'. Pathetic."
He then posted a screenshot of a quote attributed to Janez Brajkovič, the former WorldTour rider who now races for Continental outfit Adria Mobil.
The Brajkovič quote reads: "The only way a Conti rider can ride at the front mixed up with WT egoistic cry babies, is to be stronger than them. And oh man, it feels so good when they're breathing through gills, and let you slot in...even between their team-mates. Of course, they'll say things like: 'don't do stupid things' or 'don't be stupid'.
"It's a great pleasure when you can do whatever you want on a climb, and they're powerless...nonetheless, I love all of them. One day they'll figure out that it's not about who you are as a cyclist, but who you are when cycling is taken away from you."
The 2020 Vuelta is Smit's second Grand Tour, having raced the 2019 Vuelta last year. He made it into the breakaway for two consecutive days on stages three and four, keeping the peloton at bay as the last man until 15km to the finish on the second occasion
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Hi. I'm Cycling Weekly's Weekend Editor. I like writing offbeat features and eating too much bread when working out on the road at bike races.
Before joining Cycling Weekly I worked at The Tab and I've also written for Vice, Time Out, and worked freelance for The Telegraph (I know, but I needed the money at the time so let me live).
I also worked for ITV Cycling between 2011-2018 on their Tour de France and Vuelta a España coverage. Sometimes I'd be helping the producers make the programme and other times I'd be getting the lunches. Just in case you were wondering - Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen had the same ham sandwich every day, it was great.
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