‘If you come third in a time trial at a Grand Tour twice, then you have to be considered among the better TT riders’ says breakaway specialist
Lotto Soudal’s Thomas De Gendt has made the Belgian selectors’ decision as to which riders to pick for next summer’s Olympic Games even more difficult by saying that he wants to be considered for the nation’s second and final individual-time-trial spot in Tokyo.
Remco Evenepoel (Deceuninck-QuickStep) has already secured the first berth by virtue of winning this year’s European Championships time trial, but the decision as to which rider will fill the other place is complicated by the fact that both TT riders also have to form part of the five-man squad for the Olympic road race.
Victor Campenaerts (Lotto Soudal), Wout van Aert, Laurens De Plus (both Jumbo-Visma) and Yves Lampaert (Deceuninck-QuickStep) are all already being considered for the time trial, and now De Gendt has thrown his hat into the ring. De Gendt may also be one of the better choices when considering the road race, even if he admits that, as things stand, he may not be the fastest rider against the clock.
“I think Victor and Wout are one step ahead, but I would still like to put myself forward as a candidate,” De Gendt told Sporza.be on Sunday. “They [selectors] may ask me to be ready for that Olympic week. I think that if you have five or six candidates, everyone will be keen.”
De Gendt pointed out that he had improved considerably against the clock during the 2019 season, and that he was “prepared to pay even more attention to it”.
“I may not be the world’s best, but on a difficult course [like the Olympic TT course], I can certainly aim for the top five. I’m now trying to take another step forward, and hopefully there’ll be a victory in a time trial [next season],” he said.
“If you come third in a time trial at a Grand Tour twice, then you have to be considered among the better TT riders,” De Gendt added, referring to the two stages at this year’s Giro d’Italia and Tour de France.
The 33-year-old finished third on the final stage of the Giro – an individual time trial won by the USA’s Chad Haga (Sunweb), ahead of De Gendt’s compatriot and teammate Campenaerts.
At the Tour, De Gendt also took third in the Pau time trial on stage 13, which was won by Deceuninck-QuickStep’s Julian Alaphilippe, ahead of Geraint Thomas (Team Ineos). DeGendt also won a road stage during this year’s Tour, soloing to victory on stage 8 from Mâcon to Saint-Etienne.
“I’ve planned my season for next year so that I’m in top form for the Tour, and then the Olympics, which take place a week later. It’s ideal to be able to extend that super condition for a week,” he said.
De Gendt is currently bike-packing through Spain’s Montañas Vacías range between Teruel and Valencia with his friend and Lotto Soudal teammate Tim Wellens, reprising their six-day adventure from Italy back home to Belgium, which they did following one-day Classic Il Lombardia in 2018.
The start of ‘The Final Breakaway 2′ – as the two riders have called their trip – had to be delayed due to Wellens’ bike being damaged on the flight to Spain, De Gendt falling ill, and due to bad weather, but the riders got under way a little further along the route than originally planned, from Teruel on Saturday, and have nevertheless had to endure deep snow on the mainly unmade roads through the mountains.
They expect to reach Valencia by Tuesday night.