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Giro d’Italia 2012 – Stage 20: De Gendt on the Passo dello Stelvio


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So said our friend Vik of De Gendt on the Passo dello Stelvio:

“What’s he playing at, riding like that in the valley? He’ll get eaten up on the climb of the Stelvio!”

Even Sean Kelly didn’t think it was a good idea.

Dave and I weren’t so sure – De Gendt is a hardy pup.

De Gendt on the Passo dello Stelvio
Thomas trains on the Passo dello Stelvio regularly and knows it’s ramps inside out. Photo©Sirotti

Long lone breaks are his thing – he’s won two Paris-Nice stages in epic escapes.

It became apparent on the Stelvio that everyone was wasted, not just unwilling to come through, but unable.

De Gendt apart, man of the day has to be Christian Vande Velde – if Hesjedal wins tomorrow then much of that belongs to the American.

He rode himself into oblivion for his team leader, keeping a check on the rampant De Gendt.

The finaltop three looks like Hesjedal, Scarponi, De Gendt to us – but in this Giro, who can tell?

As Dave pointed out, there’s an energising effect from a pink skinsuit and the wee chap from Catalonia might just stay on the podium.

The big man from Canada should do the biz, but it looked to us as if he went very deep, today.

De Gendt on the Passo dello Stelvio
Ryder lead Joaquim most of the way up the Passo dello Stelvio – he had to, Thomas was putting his second place in jeopardy. Photo©Slipstream

And remember that De Gendt was fourth behind Martin, Evans and Contador in the final chrono of le Tour, last year in Grenoble.

The final test is pan flat but whilst there are the usual big gear boulevard blast sections, there are plenty of technical corners to drop it on.

If I was Rodriguez’s manager, I think I’d have told him to go earlier, today – but Valerio Piva has forgotten more about pro cycling than I’ll ever know.

That’s why he’s in the team car – and I’m in this office.

And praise has to go to the organiser: it’s great to be going into the finale of a Grand Tour without the winner being a ‘cert.’

Last year’s nutty finale was a procession around northern Italy, this year we’ve had sparkle every day and no certain winner.

But let’s close with Thomas De Gendt – very much the Man of the Match.

Here’s a wee in interview we did with him during last year’s Paris-Nice, it gives you a feel for him.

We’re trying for another one, right now – we’ll keep you posted:

De Gendt
If no-one else thought he was capable of moving onto the podium, Thomas De Gendt and his team did. Here’s De Gendt on the Passo dello Stelvio.

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Thomas De Gendt on the Passo dello Stelvio

10th March 2011

The 2009 Tour of Britain, and one of the stars of the show is a young Belgian from the Topsport Vlaanderen team, Thomas De Gendt – he enlivens the race and takes the sprints and mountains jerseys.

Much is expected of the man from St. Niklaas in 2010; but the big results refuse to come.

But a change of team – and diet – can work wonders for a man; and his aggressive, ‘old fashioned’ riding has been the big talking point of this year’s Paris-Nice, with a stage win and two spells in yellow for the Vacansoleil man.

De Gendt rode for the strong Davo amateur team from 2006 through to 2008, gaining some big results along the way; a stage in the German Thüringen-Rundfahrt, a stage in the Tour of Namur and the Stadsprijs Geraardsbergen all went his way in 2007.

The following year saw his talent for short stage races develop, with a stage win and the GC in the French Triptyque des Monts et Chateau and two stages and second on GC in the Triptyque Ardennaise as well as a stage in the Spanish Vuelta Ciclista, the GP Waregem and GP Joseph Bruyere.

Moving to Topsport Vlaanderen for 2009 he won the Trofee Jong Maar Moedig and a stage in the Tour de la Region Wallonne not to mention his sparkling week at the Tour of Britain.

In 2010 the results stalled a little with his best performances being 2nd in the Brabantse Pijl behind Sebastien Rosseler and 3rd on GC in the Ster Elektrotoer behind Adam Hansen.

But 2011 has already seen a runner up spot in a Tour Down Under stage – to Cameron Meyer – a top ten on GC at the Volta ao Algarve in Portugal and a dazzling first four days on his way to the Riviera.

We caught up with the 24 year-old after he had lost the leader’s jersey for the second time – on stage five; but with his deficit at 15 minutes, he won’t be snatching it back this time.

Congratulations on your Paris-Nice, Thomas – we first paid attention to you because of your ride in the Tour of Britain in 2009.

“Of course, it was a nice race and I had good results – two jerseys, sprints and mountains.

“That’s still one of my best results until now; I think that my results here in France are even better.

“I’d like to ride the Tour of Britain again, it’s a good race but it clashes with the Vuelta…”

De Gendt on the Passo dello Stelvio
Thomas in the KOM jersey at the 2009 Tour of Britain. Photo©

We had perhaps expected to see more results from you in 2010?

“In different races I had good legs but not the luck – there were always one or two guys who had that instead of me and I finished in the placings many times.”

Davo is a good team to serve your apprenticeship in.

“It’s one of the three best U23 teams in Belgium – in my time it was the feeder team for Unibet but now it does the same job for Lotto.

“It was a very good team to be in to gain experience.”

Topsport to Vacansoleil – a big jump?

“At Topsport we all spoke Flemish and we were all young, at Vacansoleil there are seven or eight different languages and a much wider age range.

“It’s a bigger team, we ride bigger races, there’s more professionalism – and more pressure, of course!”

How about the jump to Pro Tour level races?

“The races are bigger but so is my motivation, when you go to a big race it’s an opportunity for me to show myself to the team and to the public.

“It’s difficult to get highly motivated in a small race in Belgium – there’s little to gain if you ride well and a lot to lose if you don’t.”

What’s your favourite parcours?

“Stages like yesterday (Paris-Nice stage four) with little hills of maybe five or six kilometres – but not too steep.

“Today in the finale it was a 10% climb and that’s too steep for me – I’m a little too fat for that sort of gradient!”

You played stage one to perfection.

“It wasn’t planned, like a lot of my moves I went on intuition – I actually thought that I’d stay in the bunch on stage one, but when Voeckler went I thought; ‘I’ll go with him!’

“Giro d’Italia 2012 – Stage 20: Caldes/Val di Sole – Passo dello Stelvio 218kmTDG: Again, it was spontaneous, I saw Voeckler go again and thought; ‘why the hell not?

“I had good legs, there were five guys in the group – a perfect number and we communicated well.

“We agreed that if we had less than two minutes at the start of the last climb we’d have to ride it hard but if we had more than two minutes we could ride it steady and go full gas after that.

“And all the pieces fell into place – it was beautiful.”

De Gendt on the Passo dello Stelvio
Taking the first stage of PN in Houdan. Photo©GettyImages

You told Voeckler you wouldn’t contest the stage?

“That’s normal, if you have a guy who is after the jersey he won’t go for the stage, he’ll let the other guys contest that.

“Remi Pauriol asked if he could take the mountain points and I agreed but said that I wanted the sprint bonuses.

“We all agreed that we’d all ride until two kilometres to go; but after that I’d have to pull on my own because they’d be contesting the sprint full gas and I’d have to try to hang on.”

Did you think you could keep the jersey, today?

“If I’d had good legs then I could have got over that climb; but after the stage yesterday it was always going to be difficult.

“The efforts I made on stage four cost me a lot of energy, it wasn’t ideal to try and defend the jersey.

“I felt my legs from the start, I was almost dropped and my team mates had to push me on the first climb; and at the start of the final big climb – the Col de la Mure – I said to the car that I’d just ride in and to let my team mates ride their own race.

“If I have good legs and I’m 15 minutes down on GC and no danger then on Saturday or Sunday maybe I can get away again – maybe?”

Your team mate Matteo Carrara is in third spot on GC, can he hold on to that?

“He’s not a great time trial rider, top 30 in a time trial is good for him so I think he’ll lose that position; but if his legs are good than maybe we’ll see him again on Saturday or Sunday?”

What’s the programme after Paris-Nice?

“Milan – Sanremo then all the Northern Classics; Flanders, Roubaix, Amstel and Liege-Bastogne-Liege.

“I’m not riding the Giro, you can’t be competitive in the Classics and the Giro – but hopefully I’ll be in the Tour in July.”

The Ricco affair seems to have spurred the team to do well?

“What he did, there’s no one in the team can do anything about – the team shouldn’t be punished for his actions.

“It generated a lot of very bad publicity for Vacansoleil and what we’re doing is trying to generate publicity of the best kind – with good riding.”

And what about your diet?

“Yes, I used to be a big meat eater; things like sausages, salami and greasy stuff.

“But over the winter I tried a lot harder to watch what I was eating and lost three kilos of fat – I climb better, my condition is better and I think you can see it in my results.”

Results - Giro d’Italia 2012 – Stage 20: Caldes/Val di Sole - Passo dello Stelvio 218km