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Thomas De Gendt is the first Belgian to finish on a grand tour podium since Johan Bruyneel in the 1995 Vuelta
Third place overall for Belgian rider "yet to sink in"
While Canada's Ryder Hesjedal took the glory and made the history by clinching overall victory in the 2012 Giro d'Italia yesterday, there were plenty of people left open-mouthed by the performances of Thomas De Gendt on the final weekend of the race - including, it seems, the man himself.
The Vacansoleil-DCM rider was the most impressive performer as the Giro reached its conclusion, winning the penultimate stage in the mountains on Saturday, which was the biggest victory of his career to date, and then proving his versatility by finishing in fifth on the final day time trial. It was enough to secure the 26-year-old third place overall, and represents the first time a Belgian rider had finished on the final podium since Johan Bruyneel did so at the 1995 Vuelta a Espana.
"This hasn't sunk in yet," an emotional De Gendt told the press afterwards.
"My legs weren't good in the time trial as I was still feeling the effects of Saturday. We had raced 219km in the mountains but then it was the same for all of us. Three weeks ago I would never have dared to dream that I would be in this position and that I would even reach the end of a grand tour. But now I know that a pretty good rider lurks within me.
"I know now that I don't have to be scared of the steep mountains. I wasn't anonymous before this race but now people will sit up and take notice of me even more."