“I’m still the same Thomas De Gendt but with different ambitions”
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Monday, May 28, 2012

“I’m still the same Thomas De Gendt but with different ambitions”

by Ben Atkins at 1:47 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Giro d'Italia
 
Homecoming Vacansoleil-DCM rider speaks of his emergence as a Grand Tour contender

Thomas de GendtAfter overcoming a 27 second deficit to defending champion Michele Scarponi in yesterday’s final time trial, Vacansoleil-DCM’s Thomas De Gendt became the first Belgian to stand on a Grand Tour podium since RadioShack-Nissan’s Johan Bruyneel took third in the 1995 Vuelta a España. For a Belgian on the Giro d’Italia podium you have to go all the way back to Johan De Muynck’s victory in 1978, which is what make’s the 25-year-old’s achievement all the more popular back home.

On his arrival back in Belgium, De Gendt attended a hastily arranged press conference in Gavere, where he spoke a mostly Belgian audience. He insisted that his success has not changed him, although it has spurred him on to try to achieve more.

"I’m still the same Thomas De Gendt,” he told the press conference, “but with different ambitions.

"This morning I watched that stage again. Then it hit me, and I realised how close I had come the pink jersey. The general classification wasn’t really a goal for me. The team gave me the opportunity to explore my options without pressure. Perhaps that was the key to this success. "

De Gendt burst onto the WorldTour scene in 2011 as he held off the sprinters to take the opening stage of Paris-Nice. The then 24-year-old’s climbing talent was exposed as he held off Andy Schleck on the climb to Serfaus, Austria in the Tour of Switzerland, and he was selected to ride in his debut Tour de France. His results in the race were unspectacular until the last few stages, when his potential for going the distance was shown by his fifth place on Alpe d’Huez, and third in the final time trial.

After his victory in Saturday’s Stelvio stage though, which was built on an attack over the Mortirolo, the Belgian has presented himself as a potential winner of Grand Tours.

"I now know that I have the talent in me," continues De Gendt. "In the end I pushed further and further on to the top of the standings. The time trial yesterday wasn’t exactly made for me but, despite how sore my legs were, I rode into fifth place. That says something about my capacity for recovery, which is due to my ever-attacking way of racing. I think I have a future as a Tour rider.

“The mountaintop finishes don’t intimidate me any longer.”

After three weeks on the road in Italy, De Gendt’s needs on his return to Belgium were simple, according to Sporza, with a return to some of the simple home comforts at the top of his list.

“The first thing I did when I got here? I had a few sandwiches, because I missed them,” he told the press conference. “In Italy they only had baguettes.

“This week is a holiday,” he explained. “I will be riding, but not training. I want to go to a restaurant a few times to eat; in the last three weeks there was a little too much pasta, I may even have some frites.

“Currently I have little desire to race, but it was the same after the Tour in 2011,” he added. “Next week it should return, and I’ll check my programme with the team management.”

In the meantime, there is something that De Gendt has to do, since he is to marry girlfriend Evelyne on June 30th, the day that nine of his teammates will be racing around Liège in the prologue of the Tour.

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