Canadian Cyclist


June 19/24 17:18 pm - Derek Gee Interview - From Dauphine to the Tour

Posted by Editoress on 06/19/24

Earlier this month, Derek Gee (Israel Premier Tech) became only the second Canadian (after David Veilleux, in 2013) to don the leader's jersey at the Critérium du Dauphiné, when he won Stage 3. Gee went on to finished third overall after finishing in the top-5 in all three of the final stages, each a mountaintop finish.




Stage win and overall lead after stage 3 at Dauphiné

Derek will not be defending his national champion's time trial jersey this year, since he has been selected to the Tour de France squad. We spoke with him at his home in Andorra, where he is training for the Tour.

Canadian Cyclist: The start to your season was a bit unbalanced because of the big crash you had [at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad in February]. Were you originally scheduled to do Dauphiné, or was that a change after you had to sit out some racing while you recovered?

Derek Gee: The original plan was to do the Classics and then a big break, and then altitude and the Dauphiné. Obviously, the Classics got disrupted ... all the racing between the crash and Dauphiné was what got changed. Once I recovered, I got some race days in and then when I got back to altitude everything was back on track to the original plan for the year.

CC: After a big crash and having your plans thrown off course, there has to be some nervousness going into a big race like Dauphiné?

DG: For sure there was some nerves, but I got a couple of races in beforehand, and I felt like I was getting back on track; I had a really good training camp. So, for sure nerves because Dauphiné is such a big race, but I was pretty confident my form was going to be good. Not that good, but good!

CC: It was sort of like the Giro last year, when you were racing well every day, even though there were some pretty big mountains. Let's start with your stage win.

DG: That was pretty cool. We were riding for Dylan Teuns that day, but he just made the call on the final climb, he said 'I'm not feeling great today guys, have a go'. So I just took the opportunity. You could see when I crossed the line that I was pretty shocked, but I'm glad I could finally get my first win in Europe.

CC: You could see watching the race in the final kilometre there's an attack by one of your teammates, which was shut down pretty quick, and then everyone is looking at each other and you just went.

DG: It was Krists Neilands that went ... funnily enough, I though I heard someone yell 'Derek, go!' as soon as he came back, as a counter, so I did. It turns out it was Hugo [Houle] on the radio cheering me on because he thought Krists was me! So he [Hugo] was just encouraging Krists, thinking it was me, and I thought, 'Oh, I guess he wants me to counter'. So I just went for it. And it worked.

CC: So last year, you had four second places at the Giro; the Dauphiné is obviously not a Grand Tour, but it is your first win and it is a major race.

DG: It was nice after going second so many times to get the win, and Dauphiné is a pretty big race ... one of the major one-weeks and one of the major Tour builders. It was nice as its own result, but it's also nice as a confidence booster going into the Tour.

CC: There were some big mountain days after Stage 3 and some big names coming to the front of the race. How was it being in those big mountains and literally riding with the leaders into the final kilometre of the stages?

DG: It was pretty surreal to see the names there. The goal going in was to try for GC, but it was more like 'let's see if you can do a top-15'. That was the goal, a top-15, and it was very pressure-free from the team. Just race it to the line every day and see how you end up.

The plan was always to just race it to the line, but it turned out that there weren't very many guys left at that point. I was with some pretty big names, so that is pretty cool to look back on.

CC: Let's look forward to the Tour. You've done a Grand Tour before, but the Tour de France is maybe a little different?

DG: You could say that! The biggest race in the world, so for sure there are a few more nerves going into the Tour then there were lining up at the Giro.

CC: Your team has put out that there won't be pressure for you to be a GC rider this year; that it will be more about stage results.

DG: Yes. That's been the plan since the start of the year; if I make the Tour team, then the goal is to go for stages. They've kept it that way, which is nice, because I think a GC run at the Tour is a bit of an undertaking; it's something that you have to plan from the start of the season. Hopefully, if the legs are as good as they were at the Dauphiné, that will help me compete for stages. I'm just going to go into it aggressively, and hope to come away with a stage.

CC: Any particular stages you are focussing on?

DG: Not really. I think Dauphiné has just opened up a few more possible stages. At the Giro I got in the breakaways in the high mountains but, realistically, if there was a proper climber there I wasn't winning them. Now I feel I can be more competitive in breakaways across more stages. And, obviously, stages like the gravel stage [Stage 9] will be interesting. Really, it opens the door for me to be competitive in any kind of breakaway.

CC: Now that you has some notoriety as a 'breakaway guy', are you having more difficulty getting into breaks?

DG: I haven't been in a Grand Tour since the Giro last year, so we'll see after a few stages of the Tour! But I don't think getting into a breakaway at the Tour is the easiest thing in the world. I don't think I'll be too marked out. Everyone has their own goals, their own ambitions ... we'll see. Maybe some people will try to follow me into breaks, but we'll see what the dynamic is after the race starts.

CC: This week is Nationals, but you won't be there to defend your time trial jersey. How disappointing is that?

DG: The timing is tough; up until now it hasn't been an issue because I wasn't on any Tour rosters. But to miss Nationals is hard; it's a pretty special race. And winning it and wearing the maple leaf is something pretty special ... I'd really like that road race jersey one day, because I think lining up in all the road races with the maple leaf is on another level to wearing the [time trial] skinsuit. But I've got a lot of teammates going, so hopefully one of them can come back with it.

CC: So what does your schedule look like between now and the Tour?

DG: I live in Andorra now; it's not super high, 1700 metres. So I'll be here until the start of the Tour. I'll be in Europe until Quebec-Montreal. My big end-of-season goal is going well at Quebec-Montreal.

[Note: The Olympic team will not be named for another week or so, but our understanding is that Derek will be going to Paris].




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