I think you would agree that this year’s Tour de France was epic to say the least.
We saw Egan Bernal, the youngest rider in 110 years taking the prized yellow jersey, lord Sagan securing a seventh green jersey and (to French delight) Romain Bardet claiming the polka dot jersey in the mountains.
Not to mention unbelievable performances from Julian Alaphillipe who held on to the leader’s jersey for 12 stages, Simon Yates with two impressive stage wins and Thibault Pinot who looked like a true contender until disaster struck and he had to pull out from the race on stage 19 with a muscle tear in his left thigh.
One name we have missed out of the list above though is another hero of the peloton, Thomas De Gendt. Thomas stormed his way to victory on stage eight with a monstrous solo breakaway and we were lucky enough to get a rider’s perspective on breakaway mechanics.
When Thomas answered our questions, he had already clocked up about 2500km with the rest of the tour still to go (980 km) so it was no surprise that his answers were short and sweet!
Words by Will Newton
After watching in awe as Thomas De Gendt of Lotto Soudal rode away from the rest of the Tour de France to take yet another stunning, solo breakaway win, we couldn’t help but wonder ‘just how does he manage to do this time after time?’
Luckily, amid preparing for the final week in the Alps, De Gendt was able to take a few minutes out to answer some of our questions.
How do you choose which stage you’re going to attack?
I look for stages that are too easy for GC riders and too hard for most sprinters, or if the final suits me.
What makes a certain route particularly good for a breakaway?
It has to be difficult for the chasers to keep organised.
On the morning before targeting the break, do you do anything differently to normal? Perhaps more food at breakfast? Some motivational music on the team bus?
I don’t do anything different.
Do you talk to any other riders before the start and agree to make a breakaway together? If so, who do you like to attack with?
No, but you can see in the neutral who is motivated to go.
What are your tips for launching a successful break after the starting gun? Is it best to follow riders straight away, or sit back and wait for an early climb?
Start the moves yourself and see who is eager to follow. Then try to get the strong guys with you.
What’s the atmosphere like inside a breakaway? Is there a lot of banter and jokes? Or is it more heads down, let’s get on with it?
Sometimes we make plans, sometimes we don’t speak a word.
Do you find that other riders lean on you more to do the work? Because of your experience and massive engine.
Yes, I do.
Do you have any sneaky tactics that you play on riders while in a breakaway? Like faking tiredness or missing a few turns.
Sometimes I fake good legs to scare them so they won’t attack too early.
What’s your favourite time to attack from a breakaway? Does it depend on the route, or do you look for certain signs from the other riders in the break?
20-25 to go.
What’s your preferred way to win from a break? Sprint or solo attack?
Which breakaway win was your favourite? Mine was your win on the Stelvio in 2012. It was that stage that really made me fall in love with cycling!
Stage 8 TDF 2019!
If you could choose three riders to join you in a breakaway, who would they be and why?
Jens Voigt (breakaway hero) Jacky Durand (breakaway hero) and Eddy Merckx (hero).
Do you have any parting advice for riders who are looking to become breakaway specialists?
Try as often as you can so you gain experience.
Thomas is truly a class act, a breakaway specialist who chooses style over science by not opting for an aero bike as his weapon of choice. the experienced, bold Belgian is as strong as they come and we hope to see more of him with his arms in the air again this season.
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