One of Thomas De Gendt’s first big mountain stages at the Tour de France, back in 2011, tackled the dual climbs of the Col du Tourmalet and Luz Ardiden so stage 18 completed the circle as the Lotto Soudal rider contemplated whether this year’s French Grand Tour could be his last.
The 34 year old is riding his ninth Tour de France, with the breakaway specialist having won a stage in 2019 and 2016, but he has said this year was a different experience with his best efforts bringing meagre rewards after a rapid shift up in the general level.
"Next year someone else can try it in my place in the Tour,” De Gendt told Sporza. “I haven't been able to show anything this year and not last year either.”
A race weary De Gendt has deleted the Vuelta a España from his program and plans to ride a light schedule for the rest of the year.
"I can't recover like other years. Two years ago I rode the three big tours in succession and then started again almost without rest in the Tour Down Under," said De Gendt.
"It may not be bad to get off the bike for a few months and only start again in, for example, Paris-Nice. Most likely I will only ride the Tour of Norway this year and a few Belgian one-day races, if they are short of someone."
Last year was De Gendt’s first at the Tour de France where he didn’t deliver a top ten stage finish, with his best placing 20th, while this year his best has been 32nd in the stage 5 time trial.
"Tomorrow I may try to break away, but for the time trial I will no longer push myself through my frame to become 30th,” the Belgian told the broadcaster on Thursday. “Jan Bakelants said a few days ago that he would have stopped immediately if he had won. I thought that too. That with a win I would say: it's been nice. I'll stop."
However, that win hasn't come so De Gendt has remained on the Tour, one of only four in his team left/ Caleb Ewan crashed on stage 3 and broke his collarbone, Jasper De Buyst left on stage 9 – with the alpine test catching a number of riders out – while Tosh van der Sande abandoned on stage 11 and Roger Kluge left on stage 13 after a crash.
De Gendt crossed the finish line of the 129.7 kilometre stage 18 atop Luz Ardiden in 62nd place.
"The last ascent in this Tour and perhaps my last mountain ever in the Tour," he said. "There is a very good chance that this was my last Tour. But Luz Ardiden is a nice climb to finish with."
When asked if he thought about his farewell to the mountains during the final ascent De Gendt said: "I didn't think about much. I do know that this climb was in my very first Tour in 2011 and now again. The circle is complete. That's nice."
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