This is Paris-Nice, the Race to the Sun. Who else would win but the team of Vacansoleil, the Sunny Vacationers.
Thomas De Gendt, FDJ’s Jérémy Roy and Leopard Trek’s Jens Voigt rode a tailwind into Houdan, just holding off the sprinters. De Gendt was the strongest of the three and so climbs up to the top step with the luscious podium girls and champage.
“The last six kilometers with a tail wind were in our favor,” said De Gendt. “The peloton didn’t catch us because we were simply too strong.”
Too strong and, as is the case in a successful break, too damn clever. “The three of us combined forces really well and we played with the peloton,” said Roy. “I’m not disappointed of losing to De Gendt because he was definitely the strongest of our group.”
Voigt faded to sixth place and journalists are on the way to Berlin to explain to German’s six kids why their father was unable to win. Throwing all his energy into fighting the radio ban must have tired him out a bit.
De Gendt and company toyed with the chasing horde and the payoff was sweet for the 24 year old Belgian, who took the biggest win of his career and the leader’s jersey. Favorites like Heinrich Haussler, Peter Sagan and Matt Goss were left out of the celebrations.
“Unfortunately, we missed a bit of time, so at the 400 meters mark,” said Goss. “I went on the front. I had no option but to go, because it was the only way to catch them, but at 70 meters, I run out of gas, I started to blow.” No gas, blew up, no victory about sums it up.
Obviously, the hard-riding De Gendt was repeating to himself all 25 of the most famous motivational quotes, including the Mark Twain gem: “The secret of getting ahead is getting started.”
Now, top riders always have a few training maxims they adhere to, things that push them into the realm of the super human. For De Gendt, it’s about sausage management. “Salami and sausages are my weakness. I love to eat everything that a pro cyclist shouldn’t eat,” said the man with the weakness. God, don’t you love reading that? A ProTour rider with a sausage issue. Makes us love the man even more.
Today’s Tv time, sponsor spotlight goes to Europcar’s Damien Gaudin and Euskaltel’s Gorka Izaguirre who launched the first break. Get those corporate logos out there, boys! Team Sky and Garmin-Cervélo brought them back to the fold and then it was De Gendt’s moment to shine in Paris-Nice.
Despite a hilly and uphill finish and the mad accelerations of the Quick Step and HTC-Highroad squads, the Vacansoleil rider held out to the end. Now, if the team can just keep its place in the Giro, life will be good, post-Ricco.