Thomas De Gendt is no stranger to crazy long-distance bike rides and on Saturday the Belgian breakaway specialist linked up with his Lotto Soudal teammate Jasper De Buyst to tackle a 300km ride in honour of Milan-San Remo.
The first Monument of the season was due to take place on Saturday but due to the expanding coronavirus pandemic, it was postponed from the racing calendar. Riders in Belgium, however, are still allowed to train on the roads and the Lotto pair made use of the opportunity to get in a vast training session.
“It was planned because with the coronavirus we wanted to honor the 300km at Milan-San Remo,” De Gendt told Cyclingnews with his feet up on the sofa on Sunday afternoon.
“Jasper lives near me and he was down to race Milan-San Remo so he was in great shape and wanted to release his frustration over the race being cancelled.”
“We both started at home and did a 280km loop together. It was 10km until we met and then we each did another 10km on the way back to our houses. The ride connected each capital city in the Belgian provinces. So we did a few places and the big cities like Brussels, Antwerp, and Gent. We saw the big markets that were empty and it was really quiet on the roads. In that sense, it was the perfect time to do it.”
The ride took ten hours, mainly due to the fact that De Gendt and De Buyst had to handle a strong headwind for almost half of their ride. De Gendt admitted that this was easily the longest training ride of his life, and a lot harder than completing Milan-San Remo.
“It took 10 hours. We were aiming for 30kph but there was a strong headwind for about 120km. That took a long time but we luckily had a tailwind in the last three hours. I won’t be riding again for the next few days. We can still ride outside and it’s good to release some frustration.”
While the pair were out they took several measures to ensure that they – and those around them - stayed as safe as possible. Hand sanitizer was used whenever needed, while the riders also kept a safe distance from each other during their training session.
“We took the measurements to make sure that we were safe,” De Gendt said.
“We took our alcohol gel with us, so if we stopped, and it’s rare, we cleaned our hands before we went into a bakery. Then we washed them again after we left. I took as much food as possible with me before I left the house and we only ended up stopping once and we kept a 1.5-meter gap between each other as much as possible. It was harder than Milan-San Remo. A lot harder. I’m used to riding six or seven hours on the bike. That’s really good training. I’ve only done eight hours twice and nine hours once, so doing ten was by far the longest training ride I’ve ever done."
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