Copyright Lotto Soudal

Thomas De Gendt has added another memorable victory to his palmares. The Lotto Soudal rider arrived solo in Saint-Étienne, where the first stage of the Critérium du Dauphiné finished. A successful end of an early breakaway. Thanks to his stage win De Gendt leads the overall classification. Tomorrow, he will be racing in the yellow jersey. During the stage he had already secured the KOM jersey. And the Belgian is also first in the points classification.

Immediately after the start of this 170.5 kilometres long stage with start and finish in Saint-Étienne, the road ran uphill towards the first of eight official climbs. Thomas De Gendt had set his mind on the KOM jersey. He formed a break with the following six riders: Axel Domont, Delio Fernandez, Silvio Herklotz, Angel Madrazo, Antonio Nibali and Romain Sicard. A strong De Gendt was always the first to reach the top of the climbs. Mission accomplished.

But it wasn’t over yet. The front group had a maximal lead of six and a half minutes. With 25 kilometres to go three minutes advantage were still left. The peloton wouldn’t close the gap anymore. In the finale the riders had to cover three laps of fifteen kilometres, containing a third category climb. De Gendt raised the pace in the second lap and he remained only in front with Axel Domont. In the last lap De Gendt also got rid of his last opponent and soloed to victory.

De Gendt leads the GC with an advantage of 48 seconds on Axel Domont and 1’03” on Diego Ulissi.

Thomas De Gendt: “Before the start of this Dauphiné I had marked a few stages to battle for the KOM jersey. It was my goal to conquer it today and to wear the polka dot jersey the next days, but it will be a different shirt.”

“Quite soon I noticed that I was the strongest man in the front group. Of course you need to make sure to eat sufficiently and to save as much energy as possible. To catch the KOM points I needed to go full gas each time, but at the end of the stage I still had enough power in my legs to attack.”

“When we had four minutes advantage left at the start of the local laps I understood that we had a huge chance of winning the stage. From then on I fully focussed on that goal. At one and a half kilometres from the last top, I dropped Domont. I knew that if I had about fifteen seconds lead at the top, I would win the stage. Then I tried to gain as much seconds on GC as possible. In 2011 I wore the yellow jersey three days at Paris-Nice. That was a wonderful experience. I am very much looking forward to the next days.”

“I must be able to keep the jersey till the time trial. I am now 1’09” ahead of the GC riders. When Froome is in shape, he can definitely ride one minute faster than me on such a time trial course, so we’ll see if I can keep the jersey on Wednesday. Maybe by a few seconds. The stage over Mont du Chat on Friday will be too hard for me. Then I can collect more KOM points though. I now have sixteen and next weekend there are a lot more to conquer.”