At the Santos Tour Down Under, Thomas De Gendt (Vacansoleil-DCM) took out both intermediate sprints as well as the day’s only king of the mountain on stage 3 to Victor Harbor, but the Belgian has his eyes on a bigger prize – the general classification.
De Gendt has fond memories of the Australian WorldTour event; he was second on stage 4 last year, behind eventual overall winner Cameron Meyer (GreenEdge). That result marked the start of an impressive 2011, one where the 24-year-old rode to victories in Paris-Nice and the Tour de Suisse, as well putting in a strong time trial in Grenoble in the Tour de France.
It prompted the Belgian to ask his team specifically to start his season again in Adelaide for the Tour Down Under, a race he credits for much of last year’s results. With the newly introduced hill-top finish at Willunga and the bonus seconds from today, De Gendt could actually make his general classification hope a reality.
"More often than not, the Tour Down Under is decided by a matter of seconds," said De Gendt. "Taking bonus seconds here and there can make a big difference. You need to be able to hang on though on Willunga.
"The pace up Willunga is going to be really quick this year. I think the average up the hill will be four km/h faster – so it’s going to be a lot harder."
De Gendt’s time trial ability means he prefers a smooth fast climb, turning over that diesel to stay with the peloton rather than hitting out early.
"I like to start at the back and just turn keep riding my own pace. I think I’ll start the climb on Saturday somewhere in the top 40 and that should be okay.
"We will try, that's all we can do, after [Willunga] we will have no regrets."
De Gendt sits in fourth overall ahead of today’s 130 kilometre stage 4 from Norwood to Tanunda.