Thomas De Gendt Interview: Who is the big Paris-Nice discovery?
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Saturday, March 12, 2011

Thomas De Gendt Interview: Who is the big Paris-Nice discovery?

by Ed Hood at 7:45 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Interviews, Paris-Nice
Belgian rider making big progress at 24 years of age

Thomas De GendtJump back to the 2009 Tour of Britain, and one of the stars of the show there 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 competitor.

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. He also picked up 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 plus 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.

With his deficit at 15 minutes, he won’t be snatching it back this time. However he’ll come out of the race with his morale and ambitions very much on the up.


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

Thomas De Gendt: 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 . . .

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

TDG: 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.

VN: Looking back a few years, Davo was a good team to serve your apprenticeship in.

Thomas De GendtTDG: 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.

VN: Was going from Topsport to Vacansoleil a big jump?

TDG: 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!

VN: What is the jump like 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.

VN: What’s your favourite parcours?

TDG: 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!

VN: You played stage one to perfection.

TDG: 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!’

VN: Your move to regain the jersey on stage four was very brave – ‘old school.’

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.

You told Voeckler you wouldn’t contest the stage?

TDG: 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.

VN: Did you think you could keep the jersey, today?

TDG: 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?

VN: Your team mate Matteo Carrara is in third spot on GC. Can he hold on to that?

TDG: 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. However if his legs are good than maybe we’ll see him again on Saturday or Sunday.

VN: What’s the programme after Paris-Nice?

Thomas De GendtTDG: 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?

TDG: 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.

VN: You’ve credited your improvement to your diet. What have you changed?

TDG: We, I was always a big meat eater – sausages, salami and greasy things. But over the winter I tried a lot harder to watch what I was eating and lost three kilos of fat. I now climb stronger, my condition is better and I think you can see it in my results.


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