‘I was rubbing shoulders with Nibali and Valverde’ - Oliver Knight gets starstruck at Vuelta a Burgos

UAE Team Emirates rider makes big step up in key race before the Vuelta a España

Oliver Knight and UAE Team Emirates riders
(Image credit: Getty Images)

As the saying goes, you make your own luck. Reaching your goals in life requires effort and hard work, along with the occasional opportunity landing in front of you at the right time. Oliver Knight is someone who knows all about that long journey to the top. A top that is being reached as he rides the Vuelta a Burgos this week.

In 2020, Knight was one of many talented British under-23 riders who headed to Europe looking to make a name for themselves. Now 21, he had a successful spell as a junior with HMT Hospitals-Giant, finishing second overall in the junior Tour of the Basque Country behind Carlos Rodriguez (now at Ineos Grenadiers) and winning stages at other Spanish races such as the Vuelta a Pamplona. 

The young Briton was beginning to draw attention to himself, and soon joined French outfit AVC Aix-en-Provence. Backed by the Rayner Foundation (opens in new tab) and in a team with a history of progressing young British riders, Knight was on his way up. Previously, Simon Carr (EF Education-EasyPost) was part of the French team along with Harrison Wood and it wouldn’t be long before UAE Team Emirates came calling. Still based in France and supported by the Rayner Foundation, Knight told Cycling Weekly that his success wouldn’t have been possible without their help during the last three years. 

The 21-year old explained that finally, the long days and hard grind on the bike are beginning to pay off. At the Vuelta a Burgos, making his first appearance at a professional level race as a stagiaire, or trainee. 

Now, he gets to mix with the professionals who wouldn't have been out of place on his bedroom wall ten years ago. Knight said: “As it's close to the Vuelta, you’ll always get some big stars coming here [Burgos] and it’s crazy. I was looking around the bunch this morning and I was rubbing shoulders with Nibali and Valverde, people that have been at the top of the sport for as long as I can remember.”

After a tough first stage in temperatures approaching 40 degrees, Knight added, “It means everything to be here to be honest and is what I’ve been trying to achieve for so long. It doesn’t quite feel real! It was a great experience today, although a bit of a weird one. It was quite flat early on then with a key climb in the middle. Then we had a long crosswind section before a lap around the city in Burgos…It was a great experience.” 

The 21-year-old explained that during the week-long race he’s looking to take each day as it comes. UAE Team Emirates have gone into the race with Portuguese star Joao Almeida for the general classification, and Knight pointed out that he will be looking to watch and learn from his teammates. 

Knight added: “If I get the chance to get in a breakaway then I'll try and grab that with both hands. Although we’re here looking to get something out of it with Almeida in the GC which would be awesome. I haven’t actually signed for next year yet, so I’ve got to do everything I can to get a contract. I’ll be keeping my head down and cracking on really.” 

"GUYS LIKE NIBALI JUST MAKE EVERYTHING LOOK SO EFFORTLESS" 

Vincenzo Nibali

(Image credit: Getty Images)

With the Vuelta a España just weeks away, the race in Burgos is very much a key race for riders looking to prepare for a shot at overall victory at the Spanish Grand Tour. Mikel Landa (Bahrain Victorious) took the overall win last year, and as well as Landa, Knight explained that he’s been surrounded by multiple huge stars. 

Knight added that as well as former Grand Tour winners, he’s been fortunate to be racing alongside some highly experienced teammates who have been more than willing to share advice with him.

“I’m rooming with Joel Suter, a Swiss rider on our team. He told me how good it is to watch and learn from Matteo Trentin and he was absolutely right,” he said. “He [Trentin] is just so good at positioning and I think that if you put yourself on his wheel, you can’t really go wrong. It’s the same with some guys on other teams. Guys like Nibali just make everything look so effortless really, moving up and doing all the normal stuff that looks really simple, but can actually be tricky,” he added.

The Vuelta a España gets underway on 19 August in Utrecht in the Netherlands before concluding in Madrid on 11 September.

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Tom Thewlis
Tom Thewlis

Tom is a Digital News and Features Writer at Cycling Weekly. 


Before joining the Cycling Weekly team, he worked at Oxford Brookes University, most recently in the Internal Communications team. An avid cycling follower with a keen interest in racing, his writing previously featured on Casquettes and Bidons.