Belgian's life has changed off the road since Giro podium
Fresh from his superb showing at the 2012 Giro d'Italia, where he finished third overall and produced a stunning solo display in the race's penultimate queen stage to clinch victory, Thomas De Gendt is building towards a double assault on the Olympic Games.
The 25-year-old Belgian, who rides for Dutch outfit Vacansoleil-DCM, is swerving a second straight outing at the Tour de France (he finished in 62nd place last year) and is instead targetting both the road race and time trial at the London 2012 Olympics. Afterwards, he hopes to make his debut in the Vuelta a Espana, which starts on August 18.
In London De Gendt hopes to be part of a strong-looking Belgian team that is likely to feature Tom Boonen, who has been one of dominant figures on the road this season, and Philippe Gilbert, who certainly was last season. And while his all-round ability and his probable status as team leader for Vacansoleil could see him able to compete for individual honours at the Vuelta, De Gendt is under no illusions as to what his role might be in the road race at the Olympics.
"In the [Olympic] 200km road race I will be riding for Boonen and Gilbert," De Gendt told Belgian newspaper Het Nieuwsblad. "For the time trial it is difficult to estimate what is possible because it depends on who participates. If [Tony] Martin, [Fabian] Cancellara and [Taylor] Phinney start then medal opportunities will be difficult.
"It's anticipated that I will then ride the Vuelta but I doubt that I will go for the overall classification. Better for me to pick out a few stages that I think I can win and try to keep myself fresh for the world championships that come afterwards [September 15-23]."
De Gendt also gave an insight into what life is like for a rising star of the cycling world in a country that is obsessed with the sport and its riders. Since his breakout success at the Giro, things have changed significantly for him back home in Belgium.
"After the Giro I got six phone calls for interviews in one day," he told the newspaper. "There was also a lot on the TV and the radio but I try to show myself as little as possible in public.
"But on one occasion I was with my girlfriend and her parents in a restaurant and everyone stopped to watch me eat fries - 'Thomas De Gendt eats fries!'"
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