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, 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