What young cyclist doesn't dream of winning a Tour de France stage on Mont Ventoux? Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal) lived that moment Thursday during stage 12 of the Tour de France when he soloed to the win on the iconic – albeit slightly shortened – climb.
Unfortunately for De Gendt, all of the fireworks and subsequent headlines for the stage were taking place down the hill when overall race leader Chris Froome (Team Sky) got tangled up in a freak accident and briefly had to run for the top. De Gendt may have picked the wrong day to live the dream, but his daring and ultimately successful ride on Thursday earned him the Cyclingnews Rider of the Day honours.
De Gendt didn't win the nod hands down, however, as Richie Porte's ride alongside Froome on the final climb , where he launched several attacks of his own, further cemented his place as one of the strongest riders in the race after an untimely puncture cost him precious seconds during stage 2.
Despite Porte's rebounding performance on the stage, De Gendt's sadly overshadowed win caught our eye. The 29-year-old Belgian rider has long been fighting for his Tour victory. He took the stage from the day's large breakaway over Serge Pauwels (Dimension Data) and Daniel Navarro (Cofidis).
Although he is frequently on the attack in the mountains - already wearing the polka dot jersey he earned again on Thursday several stages previously - the win on Mont Ventoux was only De Gendt's second Grand Tour victory after his Giro d'Italia win atop the Stelvio in 2012.
"I had the feeling that I have to go in the breakaway today," De Gendt said. "We knew it was a day either three guys would go in the break and they would take them back with 20km to go, or there's a big break and my feelings said to go. My feeling was right. I dedicate this to Stig Broeckx. We think about him every day, and we hope that his situation gets better in the next days, weeks or months. We fight for Stig."
Pat Malach says: Thomas De Gendt goes out and quietly does his work with the grit and determination that are reminiscent of riders from an earlier era. Never afraid to stick his nose in the wind and force the other riders to get out of the saddle and race, I'm sure we haven't seen the last of De Gendt on the top step of the Tour de France podiums. Hopefully next time he wins such a prominent stage it will be the top cycling story of the day.
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