Dauphiné revelation Derek Gee focusing less on European birds, more on strong Tour performances Cycling

Dauphiné revelation Derek Gee focusing less on European birds, more on strong Tour performances

Dauphiné revelation Derek Gee focusing less on European birds, more on strong Tour performances

The big surprise of the recent Tour de France preparation weeks was definitely Derek Gee. The Canadian of Israel-Premier Tech won a tough stage in the Critérium du Dauphiné and maintained his level in the mountains, ultimately securing third place in the overall standings behind Primoz Roglic and Matteo Jorgenson. Team director Sep Vanmarcke saw him join the team last year.

Gee certainly impressed last year with his aggressive riding style in the Giro d'Italia, but finishing third in the key preparatory race for the Tour de France, that's on another level. Where is all this coming from? "Derek is 26, not the youngest. He was focused on track cycling for a long time, like many Canadians. That was somewhat pushed by the Canadian federation, but eventually, after the last Olympics, he switched to road cycling. The team quickly saw his potential," Vanmarcke tells IDLProCycling.com.

The Belgian, who rode for LottoNL-Jumbo for years before having to stop abruptly in July 2023, raced several Belgian classics with the Canadian. "He still had a lot to learn back then: race tactics, strategy. But his numbers were already very strong, and that first came to light in last year's Giro. Derek is a very cheerful, friendly guy, very down-to-earth. He has no enemies, I think, and is just focused on himself."

Vanmarcke recalls seeing him at one of the hotels during the classics. "If I think back to how he was during those first races in Europe, he was very much into birds. He would get up early in the morning and would be counting birds in the garden and then go to bed very early," he laughs. "But now he doesn't look at those birds anymore, because they are the same birds. 'If you don't go to another continent, the birds stay the same,' he said," recalling a memorable anecdote about Gee.

As a team director, it's a blessing to work with guys like Gee, Vanmarcke states. "He works very hard and is also very grateful in life in general, which makes him very pleasant to work with. He has more confidence now than last year. This year he still wanted to do those classics, for example, but I have now pointed him in a direction which means we might lose him for the classics (laughs). But that's logical," says the Belgian.

Continue reading below the photo.

Dauphiné revelation Derek Gee focusing less on European birds, more on strong Tour performances

Israel-Premier Tech doesn't pressure Gee in light of Tour debut

So what is behind Gee's, and also Matthew Riccittelo's, rising performance? "It's due to the knowledge we have within the team. Each year we learn from mistakes made or certain developments. Ultimately, they have things very well sorted in the team: that was the case at the start of the year, but again now. They returned from Isola 2000 in great shape."

Vanmarcke notes that this weighs on the rest of the team, just as it did earlier with the successes of Stevie Williams in the Tour Down Under and Flèche Wallonne. "A performance like that really resonates. We've already had a very good season, but still, the whole team draws strength from it. Everyone then puts in an extra effort."

Last but not least: what can we expect from the 26-year-old Canadian in the Tour, according to the team director? "We're not worried that Derek might drop off as sometimes happens after a good Dauphiné, because a general classification is not his goal. We want to win a stage with him, and that's the primary goal. I see it happening as with every team: start in that classification and see how far you get. But the advantage is that there is no pressure, as it's only his first Tour de France."

"The Giro last year was fantastic," Vanmarcke refers to Gee's racing style in that event. "He just kept getting better as the race progressed, which you saw again in the Dauphiné. He has a big engine and I see him delivering strong performances in July," concludes the sports director.

Place comments



More comments

You are currently seeing only the comments you are notified about, if you want to see all comments from this post, click the button below.

Show all comments

More Cycling News