Barnabás Peák: Knocking at World Tour’s door
It’s been some time since Hungary has had a pro rider at the biggest level, but things look like they are about to change, and that’s thanks to Barnabás Peák; hailing from Budapest, this talented all-rounder has steadily moved through the ranks with perseverance in just a few years, showcasing his potential, big engine and catching the eye of many teams.
Since bursting onto the U23 scene in 2017, Barnabás has forged his own path, building a palmares that after just two seasons includes both Elite National Championships titles, Beograd-Banjaluka, GP Kranj and a string of top 10 overall results at the Tour of Hungary, Vuelta al Bidasoa (where he also took a stage after an explosive finish), Paris-Arras Tour and the Tour of Serbia, many of these results being made even more impressive by the fact they came against seasoned riders and professional teams.
Currently racing at the Tour de l’Avenir, arguably the most prestigious multi-stage event for amateur riders, the 19-year-old will fly afterwards from France to Belgium to join World Tour team leader Quick-Step Floors – the most successful squad of 2018 – for which he’ll ride as a stagiaire in the closing weeks of the season, a chance he is ready to grab with both hands and show what he is really made of.
Before that happens, I got to interview Barnabás and find out more about his background and the expectations he nurtures.
– Barnabás, how did you start cycling?
It all began in the winter of 2014, at the age of 16, so my first season was as a junior. Chris Froome’s ride at the Vuelta a España inspired me a lot that year, I decided to pick up cycling because of him and his performance. In the meantime, cycling has become more and more popular in my country, we have some good teams now, people begin appreciating the results you get and have a real interest in cycling, and that motivated me as well.
– How did you end up at the World Cycling Center team?
We had our first contact in January last year, and I raced for them ever since in some really important events and got to learn a lot, but things have changed lately there and I am looking forward to change the scenery next season.
– In 2017, you had a breakthrough season, with several wins and podium finishes.
Yes, it was a good season for me, I gained a lot of confidence and developed my skills, but since then I came to realize that the level of the races where I was prominent wasn’t so high at it should have been, so I am happy that I could improve since then and be more competitive at the harder races this year.
– You also came very close to winning the Tour of Hungary, missing out on the overall victory for a mere two seconds, but in some special circumstances.
Indeed, I broke my collarbone during stage 3, so holding onto my second place in the general classification and taking home the best young rider jersey felt like a win.
– This season brought you victories in one-day races, stage races and at the National Championships. Which of these was the most important?
I’d say the Nationals, winning both the road race and the individual time trial gave me great satisfaction. It wasn’t easy, as I had a big target on my back and some pressure compared to last year, and that’s why I rate these victories as the most important so far.
– After two U23 seasons, what would you say that are your main strengths and what is it that you would still like to improve?
I feel that I have a lot of power now, but still lack skills to get results, which is frustrating. I have a good power peak for my weight, but despite this, I am far from the best in the decisive moments of the races, so there’s still plenty of work to be done.
– This week you are lining up at the start of the prestigious Tour de l’Avenir. What are your goals?
I am looking forward to it, but I don’t know what to expect. The course is again mountainous, especially in the second part, but before reaching the climbs I will try hard to seize any opportunity I’ll get.
– You joined Quick-Step Floors last winter for their first training camp in Calpe, and after L’Avenir, you’ll race with their jersey for the remainder of the season. What are your expectations?
Having the chance to train with them was a great experience and I really enjoyed their professionalism and the high level and attention for every single detail. I can’t wait to pin a number on the Quick-Step Floors jersey and to be in a very good shape for the races I will do with the squad. My dream is to win a Classic as a pro, preferably arriving solo. I think my characteristics match those of the team and there is no better place to learn how to race than as part of the Quick-Step Floors squad.