Thomas De Gendt and Tim Wellens have completed their six-day ride from Italy to Belgium, a journey they dubbed ‘the final breakaway’. The Belgian duo set off from Como after Il Lombardia last weekend and reached their destination in Semmerzake just south of Ghent.
The 1,000-kilometre ride brought the Lotto Soudal riders through several countries along their way, including Switzerland, France, Luxembourg and Germany. The detour into Germany was in honour of their teammates Andre Greipel and Marcel Sieberg – who are set to move elsewhere next season – according to De Gendt.
There was help from some of their Lotto Soudal teammates along the way with Lars Bak leaving some very welcome pastries in their Luxembourg hotel on day four. On the penultimate night, compatriot and teammate Maxime Monfort put them up for dinner.
The final day started in Belgium in the dark as they climbed on their bikes shortly after 7am. At 200 kilometres, it was the longest of their ride back home and the pair took as few stops as possible to complete it in 6 hours 40 minutes. They arrived mid-afternoon after having to stop to fix a puncture with just a few kilometres remaining.
After a busy year, De Gendt said that he is ready for the off-season but he has no regrets about adding a few extra days to the season. Will he do it again? We’ll have to wait and see.
“We were awake at six this morning and already got on our bike a few minutes past seven. I’m happy to be home, but it has been a great adventure and a wonderful experience,” De Gendt said on the Lotto Soudal Facebook page. “Despite the luggage we carried on our bike, we still had an average speed of more than 30 kilometres this week. We were lucky with the weather, only yesterday we didn’t see the sun, and we mainly had tailwind during the stages. We only had two punctures this week: on the top of the Grand Ballon and today at five kilometres from the finish.”
“We don’t regret this adventure, but won’t make any promises to repeat the effort. Tim and I really enjoyed ourselves. Yesterday evening we had dinner with Maxime Monfort and the day before Lars Bak had left a surprise at our hotel. We could enjoy nature along our route, something that’s not possible in a race. Physically we still feel fine, but we are also happy to have a holiday now. We were surprised by the support we got and the number of people that followed our adventure. Thank you to everybody.”