Belgium’s Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal) has argued that newly-introduced rules governing where and when bidons can be thrown away need revision following the disqualification of two riders in the Tour of Flanders races.
Letizia Borghesi (Aromitalia Basso Bikes Vaiano) and Michael Schär (AG2R-Citroën) were both disqualified for the same offence of throwing away a bottle outside the designated waste zones in their respective races. De Gendt, who said he had handed over a bottle to a fan who asked him for it directly on a climb of stage 2 of the Itzulia Basque Country, said he feels the law should be less sweeping.
“It all depends on where you throw the bottle,” De Gendt told Cyclingnews at the start of stage 3. “If you throw it away into an empty field, you should get disqualified.”
“That’s a good rule for that situation and [also] if you throw it at some spectators at their feet, sometimes they don’t pick it up because they aren’t interested in the bottle.
“But there are a lot of people that come to the race with signs that say ‘bottles please’ and if you give them one, it’s a bit harsh to disqualify or fine riders for doing that.”
De Gendt said that on the second climb of the Itzulia Basque County when he passed a roadside fan, he had given a bottle to him in his hands, so it was not throwing it away. I gave it to him because he was really asking for a bottle. And I think we should still be allowed to do this.
“So it’s a good rule, but they should be more human about it and not if you give the bottle directly to a fan.”
Schär post-Flanders turned to social media to recount his own experience of how picking up a discarded bottle gained him a treasured and inspirational souvenir when he was a child, a viewpoint that had already drawn support from, among others, Chris Froome (Israel Start-Up Nation) and Richie Porte (Ineos Grenadiers).
De Gendt also compared what he views as an overly-arbitrary new rule with the case of Kyle Murphy (Rally Cycling), who was disqualified from the GP Miguel Indurain for dropping a gel wrapper in the wrong place, something the Belgian said he believes was unintentional.
“It was not on purpose,” he told Cyclingnews, before pointing to another situation where riders might also fall foul of the rules.
“What happens if you lose a bottle because you hit something in the road and it bounces out from your bike? That’s not littering, it’s just bad luck.”
De Gendt and Ewan target Grand Tours
De Gendt also confirmed that he would do all three Grand Tours in 2021, something he already did in 2019, when he won a stage of the Tour into Saint-Etienne. This time, he won’t be the only Lotto-Soudal rider taking on that challenge, either.
“The plan is for Caleb [Ewan] to do all three because he wants to win a stage in all three, and also Jasper De Buyst will do all three, as he’s Caleb’s leadout. I was planning to do the Giro and the Tour, but because there aren’t really any other good races for me in August and September, I’ll do the Vuelta where I have the best chance of winning a stage.
“Doing all three was not as hard as I thought it would be two years ago and went well, but it’s different if you can relax some of the days and try go in breakaways without having to focus on GC.”
Although the Giro and Tour are 100 per cent set in stone on his program, De Gendt says he could pull out of doing the Vuelta if he finally thought it would be too hard.
He smiled when asked if he was going to become the Belgian Adam Hansen, his former teammate who now holds the record for consecutive Grand Tours.
“Adam really wanted that record, but for me it’s just because I want to do three Grand Tours to try and get a stage. This way, I have 63 chances to win one, and two years ago I won a Tour stage so why not try again?”
La Itzulia Basque Country
Unlike in the three Grand Tours, De Gendt has never won a stage in the Itzulia Basque Country and although he clearly has strong form, as his breakaway win on the last stage of the Volta a Catalunya on Montjuic showed, he was cautious about his condition following a recent bout of illness. Also, La Itzulia stages have notoriously tricky terrain for breakaways.
“I had some stomach problems yesterday [stage 2],” he told reporters, “so I’ll have to see how I get on with that.
“It’s always hard, here, there’s always a steep climb that’s a little bit too hard. This is one of the toughest one-week stage races but I’ll try my best.”
This year, “Stage 5 [on Friday] could be good because there are not so many climbs and maybe as there’s no sprinters they won’t want to chase it down,” De Gendt said.
“Every day there’s a chance the breakaway will get to the finish, though, because there are no sprinters here, only GC guys. So if there’s a break of six guys with eight minutes, we have a chance. But if you don’t try, you cannot win, so we have to try every day and see which one offers the biggest and best opportunity.”