Thomas de Gendt announced that 2024 will be his last season as a professional cyclist. However what he means is not that he will retire, but that he will step away from the big races. In a recent interview he tells that he does have the intention of racing for several more years and try out new things within the sport.
“It had been on my mind for several years. I was trying to figure out what the right moment was. I don't think I will be as motivated to sit on rollers or cycle outside on rainy days in the future," de Gendt told Het Nieuwsblad. “I also don't think I would feel comfortable taking a place from a young guy and I don't feel like stressing too much about a new contract. Ultimately, I will be 38 years old this time next yea. Since the quarantine period, during which I was home for three to four months, the children have found it much more difficult to say goodbye. One week is still possible, but for a Grand Tour it is three to four weeks. They also suffer from that. You take that into account in your decision.”
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Hence, de Gendt looks for a position in cycling but one that carries with it less pressure. He initially said it'd be his last season as a pro, but his new words connect the dots that he doesn't see continental teams as pro racing, which he is open to doing beyond 2024: “I'm retiring at professional level, but I may as well continue at continental level. I want to continue cycling a lot. Together with one of my best buddies, Willem Wauters, we want to participate in many events off-road. Like the Cape Epic in mountain biking or gravel racing in America. I would also like to race in Asia. Taiwan, Thailand, Indonesia, South Korea…"
"Just for fun. For pants and a sweater. About forty racing days a year. There are plenty of continental teams there that want to contract a European rider for some stage races in that part of the world. In the Tour de Langkawi in Malaysia I saw that the small Asian continental teams are well organized." Hence, we could see the Belgian take a similar path to that of a friend: “Raymond Kreder, an ex-teammate of mine, rode for the Japanese Team Ukyo this year. They leave him alone half the year. Every now and then he comes over for the Tour of Japan, Thailand and Taiwan."
De Gendt has given a lot to the peloton and in his final years with Lotto Dstny he will have the Volta a Catalunya and Vuelta a Espana as his biggest goals - which make sense taking into consideration that he is a resident in Spain. Afterwards, a more relaxed lifestyle, but one that he hopes to have the bike still in the center frame.
"That is an experience that I also want to gain. It broadens your horizons. In Asia there is always a different, relaxed atmosphere. Spending two to three years like that seems like a good idea to me. If it doesn't work out, I hope for a domestic continental team or a club to compete in some races," he concludes. "But the intention is not for me to race as an elite all year round without a contract. On the other hand, I don't know if it is healthy to suddenly say: boom, bang, done, after all these years on the bike!”