Lotto Soudal's Thomas De Gendt has finished on the podium at the Giro d'Italia but on stage 5 of the 2016 Tour de France he achieved a career ambition of wearing a grand tour leader's jersey with his second place to compatriot Greg Van Avermaet sending him top of the king of the mountains classification.
The 29-year-old disposed another Belgian from the KOM standings, Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo), by taking the maximum points on offer at three of the six catergorised climbs and now leads Van Avermaet by two points.
While De Gendt has won the KOM classification at races such as Tour of Britain, Paris-Nice and Volta a Catalunya and explained that once he was in the breakaway, the polka dot jersey became his goal.
"It was clear that the KOM sprints would be today's goal from the moment that I was part of the break," he said. "I was able to win three sprints and therefore I may wear the polka dot jersey tomorrow. Wearing that jersey is a big dream. I was never able to wear a jersey in a Grand Tour so I'm really happy.
"Obtaining the prize of the most combative rider and the polka dot jersey is a nice consolation prize. I'll try to defend that jersey for at least one day, after that it will depend on how the Tour will evolve. Today's stage will affect my condition as it was a very hard day. We rode more than 200 kilometres in the front of the race so I'll need some time to recover. We'll see if there are any other opportunities later in this Tour de France."
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At the start of the stage, De Gendt explained his objectives weren't 100% clear knowing there is still plenty of racing and opportunities to come. However, when it became obvious a break would be given a long leash, he jumped into the breakaway.
"It wasn't clear yet whether I would join the break this morning because I thought it might be wiser to save some strengths for the final week," he said. "But it was obvious from the beginning that a few strong riders were willing to be part of the break so I decided to join them. We got a lot of advantage from the peloton because no one was a threat to the GC riders. Van Avermaet was the best placed rider at twenty seconds but the GC riders don't expect that he will play a role in the mountain stages."
A Giro stage winner in 2012 atop the Passo dello Stelvio, De Gendt added that when the breakaway started to struggle for cohesion, he decided to push to pace in search of the stage win along with Van Avermaet and Andriy Grivko (Astana). However when Van Avermaet jumped away on the Col du Perthus with 17.5km to race, De Gendt said he couldn't follow the move, paying tribute to the superior legs of the BMC rider on the day.
"The cooperation in the front group was gone after a while so we decided to continue the break with three riders. We weren't sure whether Grivko would be good or not. Greg and I decided that he mustn't win today's stage because he didn't do his part of the job. Eventually he was dropped on the fourth climb of the day. Van Avermaet accelerated on the penultimate climb and it was clear that he was stronger than me. I'm a bit disappointed of course but I realize that Greg was simply the best today. He really deserved this victory." Media type: Twitter
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