Derek Gee Is Ready to Pounce at the Tour de France

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Derek Gee Is Ready to Pounce at the Tour de FranceDario Belingheri - Getty Images

Canadian racer Derek Gee is a force to be reckoned with—but he is also widely known as the nicest guy in the peloton. The Israel-Premier Tech racer had a breakout ride at the Giro d’Italia last year with four second-place finishes, but this year, he blew those podium results away when he took a stage win at the Critérium du Dauphiné, propelling him into the leader’s jersey for a stage and into third place overall at the end of the eight-day race.

Now, days away from his Tour de France debut, the 26-year-old is enjoying some well-deserved down time in Andorra with fiancée and fellow cyclist Ruby West and sneaking in some final training in preparation for the big show.

We were able to catch up with him to hear about how his Dauphiné win felt, the pressure of the spotlight turning towards you, and his goals for the Tour.

Bicycling: We have to talk about Dauphiné—congrats, but also, what the heck? Going in, was it the plan for you to be team leader, or how did the whole race play out? Was the team shocked, or was this a plan all along?

Derek Gee: The plan the whole time was to do a pressure-free GC, not as team leader but just riding it in to the line everyday and seeing where I ended up. The goal was top 15, so this was definitely unexpected by myself and the team!

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Dario Belingheri - Getty Images

Following your Dauphiné performance, people say you are a stage racer now. Would you agree with that? Or do you prefer not being put in a specific category?

Not really sure, I just enjoy all kinds of racing, but GC is definitely something I’ll look at for the future in the long term. I’ve had a lot more success in stage races than one-days so that will probably end up being more of my calendar.

You had some fantastic results at last year’s Giro, but this was your first big win: Does winning really feel that much better than a second place?

Indescribably better! The first second place at the Giro last year felt like a win but after that the frustrations started to grow a bit, getting a win was such a massive relief to finally check that box.

Has it been a shift for you in the last year, going from being a young rider from Canada who flew somewhat under the radar to being a headline story from these races?

Really a massive shift, especially during the Giro last year, I was having a tough time sleeping because I couldn’t shut my brain off, it was something I had never experienced before. This time as well in the Dauphiné it was a bit like that, but luckily I was able to shut it out a little better and recover for the next days.

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Tim de Waele - Getty Images

What's changed in the last two years training-wise, as in—how did you get so fast?

The biggest thing was a deliberate shift towards trying to improve my climbing. There were little flashes of it in the Giro last year so with the help of team I had a focus on losing some weight, went up to altitude camp before the Dauphine to really get the gains from that, along with just a ton of climbing meters that naturally come from an altitude camp, and I’m really glad it paid off!

This year, you started the season with a crash and a broken collarbone—how was the comeback process? What did you learn in terms of recovery, concussion-wise?

Definitely it was a tough start to the season, I had a big Classics campaign ahead of me and the first race ended that. Mentally, it was a tough comeback, especially because my timeline was a return to racing right at the end of all my big spring goals. The team were amazing though and never rushed me. I had massive amounts of support from the staff for recovery process, and the biggest thing was people forcing me to take it easy with my concussion. Especially with brain injuries, I think it’s easy to try and come back too fast, so having people around me that really made me take my time with it and take it seriously was crucial.

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Tim de Waele - Getty Images

You have one of the longer contracts in cycling, with another four years on Israel Premier Tech—why make such a long term commitment?

It was a pretty easy decision to make such a long term commitment to this team. It's got Canadian roots, and the level of support they’ve showed me across my career has been unbelievable.

It’s your first Tour de France—what are your aspirations heading into the race?

Goal number one before the Dauphiné was to win a stage at the Tour and that remains the same! Hopefully I can get in the right breaks and win one.

What stage are you most looking forward to?

Stage 15 comes as close to my home in Andorra as the Tour goes this year, and my parents are coming to watch from there to the end of the race so that’s definitely what I’m looking forward to the most this year.

Which one are you secretly dreading?

Stage 19 to Isola is one I’m dreading a bit, we just finished an altitude camp there and I’ve done that finish climb to Isola more times than I remember, so I know exactly how much that one’s going to hurt...

What does Tadej Pogačar’s dominance feel like from inside the peloton? Is it frustrating, inspiring, annoying?

Luckily, I’ve managed to race Tadej very infrequently, and never in a stage race, so I think I’ll find out what’s it’s really like soon enough and can report back.

What are you watching or reading during your downtime right now? Are you following any other sports?

Biggest thing right now is the NBA Finals, and similar to the men’s side, I watch the biggest races of the year on the women’s side and every and any race that my friends are in!

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