Posted by Editoress on 05/21/23
Derek Gee (Israel Premier Tech) is Canada's lone entry in this year's Giro d'Italia, his first Grand Tour. He has had a remarkable race so far - after a second place on Stage 8 in Week 1, he has followed it up in Week 2 with two more second places and and fourth! After today's Stage 15, he sits 32nd in the overall standings, second in the Points competition and seventh in the KoM competition.
Canadian Cyclist: So how are you doing?
Derek Gee: Rob, I'm so tired!
CC: You have just finished your second week - I guess this is the longest sustained bike race you have ever done?
DG: It sure feels like it. It feels like three times, four times the length of anything I have ever done.
CC: This past week has been an extremely eventful one for you.
DG: Yes, I definitely didn't expect this for Week 2. It's been quite a week.
CC: When we talked at the end of Week 1, when you had already had a second place, you told me you would be 'looking for other opportunities'. You had a fourth place on a mountain stage and two second places - the last one so close. Can you just talk about your week.
DG: Yes, it started on the day right after the rest day [Stage 10]. We were going for the break, it was just brutal conditions, and I don't know how, but I was up the road with two really experienced riders - Magnus Cort (EF Eductation-EasyPost) and [Alessandro] De Marchi (Jayco AlUla) - and we managed to hold off the peloton because I think it was such a hard day for the bunch, because there weren't a lot of guys left to chase. I attacked, but it didn't work and I got smoked in the sprint [second to Cort]. I was really happy to get second again; losing hurt a little bit.
I was supposed to take it easy on the high mountain stage [Stage13], the one that got shortened [to 75 kilometres due to avalanche conditions], I was just supposed to help Matt [Riccitello] get into the break, but once I got him there [with Derek there also], the DS said the situation was too good to give up, so I just kept it going. I don't know how, but I ended up on the road with a bunch of very small climbers. I lost a little on the final climb, but I was just happy to have the legs to go for it on a mountain day; I really wasn't expecting that.
And then the final one [Stage 14] ... I thought the race was over [with three riders ahead] and we wouldn't be fighting it out for the win. That was for sure the best team day, working together as three guys [with team mates Simon Clarke and Stephen Williams in the initial break]. We managed to get the race manageable again and across [to the leaders]. Looking back, that one still hurts because it was so close on the finish.
CC: We could see you catching, catching, catching ... you were definitely making ground on [winner] Denz; another five metres and I think you might of had him.
DG: I felt strong all day, and when he opened up the sprint I couldn't even come off of his wheel. But then he started to fade and I saw a little glimmer of hope; 'there's still a bit of road and I can still get around him' ... but just not quite enough.
CC: You are second in the points standings by quite a considerable margin [164 points for Jonathan Milan, 112 for Derek and 88 for Pascal Ackermann]. Is this something you and the team have started to discuss; maybe there's an opportunity?
DG: I think maybe passively ... if there's an opportunity for Intermediate [points] then sure, but the goal [for the team] is still a stage win. So, if I'm up the road with a break, but aside from that ... if I try to go head-to-head with any of the sprinters I'll be very quickly put in my place. So I can just take the opportunities where they come, but there's not going to be any catching of Milan, the gap is too big. I just think it's funny that I'm sitting second in the Sprint classification!
CC: And you are seventh in the KoM competition; another one that is not normally considered one of your strengths.
DG: For sure. It's just another effect from being in the break so many times. That gap is even bigger, and I definitely won't be trying for that one. It's really nice to be up there, and we are right up there on Team GC as well [third after Stage 15], so it's been a really, really strong showing from the team over the whole race.
CC: I don't know if you've seen the comments in our story after yesterday [Stage 14] when you were second - your DS Sam Bewley had very complimentary things to say about you. [see Another podium for Derek Gee at the Giro]
DG: I saw the interview with Sam, and it was very nice. He's been absolutely fantastic. He's my personal reference Director on the team as well, and to get to work with him has been really, really special. To have him at the Giro has been really cool, and he's been in the car for my four breakaway days, so it's been a pleasure to work with him and the other directors here as well. I think we've got a really great atmosphere going with the team. The whole team is racing super aggressive, and for a bunch of young guys I think we are punching above our weight.
CC: You've still got one more week to go ...
DG: Don't remind me!
CC: You seemed to take it 'easy' today, so how do you feel with one week to go? This is obviously new territory for you every day, in terms of number of days of racing.
DG: It's really gotten into the unknown now. When you spend the whole second week basically in the breakaway, you forget that it's just so hard in the peloton! It's ridiculous. Just today ... we've got two guys in the breakaway, and I thought, 'okay, today's a day when it will be a little easier' and it was full gas just riding in the peloton. It's the Giro d'Italia, and the level doesn't get much higher than this.
We'll see. I know I've been in the break a lot and the legs are good, but this third week is still going to be something special to make it through.
CC: There are some riders that are Grand Tour riders, and you seem - from my perspective on the outside - to be one of those riders that can consistently ride well in a race of this length.
DG: I've been really, really happy with how the legs have kept going every day. I think it is also a different beast after a rest day. The first rest day is more normal, and everyone keeps saying to me that the second rest day is where ... you still have to keep the gas on, you still have to do the efforts, because when you are two weeks into a bike race the body really wants to shut down. So, I'll be very curious to see how the legs feel in the third week. And honestly, I'm excited, I'm optimistic that they'll still be good. So I'll just take it day by day, and see how things evolve.
CC: We'll keep watching, because every day we sign in and ... holy crap, Derek's in the break again!
DG: [Laughs] I couldn't believe it ... one is something, but to have four breakaways I'm in make it to the line is certainly not something I expected. It's a lot of opportunities to get a stage win in, and I'm banking on at least one more opportunity. We'll see.
CC: I was talking with Cycling Canada staff and, besides just being pumped about a Canadian doing well, they're super pumped because you are racking up so many UCI points, which benefits Canada.
DG: I think I'm up to 503 UCI points for the year, and going into this race I was at 33. So, it's been a very productive week from that perspective for sure.
CC: Are there any particular stages coming up that are possibilities, or is it more still a matter of looking for chances?
DG: Luckily for me, a lot gets decided for me in the third week. The stage after the rest day has five and a half thousand metres, or something heinous, of climbing, which I've never seen before in my life. The day after that is all downhill, so that's going to be a sprint day. And the last two days are the time trial and Rome. So I guess there's two days in the middle there [Stages 18 and 19] ... I should probably stop looking at them, because they are quite daunting, but if there's a breakaway opportunity in either of those, for sure myself and the team will be full gas for it.
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