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Thomas De Gendt: ‘I was relieved… there have been many depressing moments’

Ten years post-Stelvio victory, the Belgian speaks on the biggest changes in the peloton, winning in Napoli and the De Gendt GC

Robyn Davidson
29 May 2022

Thomas De Gendt is a machine. That much is obvious.

10 years ago he won atop the Stelvio climb at the Giro d’Italia in dramatic fashion and sans-beard, his solo victory leaving riders in his dust as he ascended the general classification.

Tim de Waele via Getty Images

‘There have been so many changes [since then]. The bikes, the clothes we wear, the way we train, even how we ride in the peloton.

‘You rarely saw teams sitting with eight riders together in one line for the whole day. It was maybe a bit less professional 10 years ago.’

Now the 35-year-old has rebranded from breakaway king to breakaway killer. A result of time and his role in Lotto-Soudal to help riders such as Caleb Ewan with stage success.

He said the biggest change personally through his career was the way in which he wins.

‘Then I was three kilos lighter. I could go better over the climbs in those days.

‘I won some races on talent while I was riding dumb.

‘Now I win more on experience and in a smarter way. I have more difficulties on climbs because of the three kilos but I also gained more strength because of the way my training changed.

‘If I could tell my 10-year younger self everything I know now, I would win five more races per year.’

Win he did on Stage 8 of the 2022 Giro d’Italia. This time in different fashion to the Stelvio, by breaking away and contesting the win in a four-man sprint finish with teammate Harm Vanhoucke.

Michael Steele via Getty Images

‘[After] I was mostly happy, relieved that I could still win something.

‘There have been many depressing moments in the last year. It was always the same story with building up to a race, starting to feel in good shape again and then getting sick.

‘It breaks the motivation more each time when you have to rebuild again.’

Like almost all the days that came before it, the lurking figure of De Gendt spent many a turn on the front powerfully pushing the pedals to ensure the group made it to the finish before the impending peloton.

‘I can only win by getting in the break.

‘So I have to tell myself that if I want to win, I need to be there.

‘Once I get in the break I have to do the big turns to keep my engine running, and it also helps to get a larger gap.’

A new (unofficial) classification emerged throughout the Giro this year – the ‘De Gendt’ general classification in which he competed against Aimé De Gendt of Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux.

It started strong as time gaps remained close, but his younger counterpart began to fall out of contention as the days passed.

‘Aimé and I were joking about the De Gendt classification, but we also thought it would be closer in the end.

‘Once I had an hour gap I think the fun was gone for the followers.’

At the time of writing this part of the article, De Gendt crossed the line in Verona to finish his 6th Giro d’Italia, his 22nd Grand Tour.

His legacy is one of triumph and trying, remaining a consistent force within the peloton who still finds the power and determination to break away between efforts to help his teammates in their own success.

He is always a delight to talk to, and I hope his honesty with depression and tales of victory can serve as an inspiration to others.

We all love a bit of #DeGendting.

Main image: Tim de Waele via Getty Images