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Blazin' Saddles: Thomas De Gendt and Tim Wellens vow to ride home after Il Lombardia

Blazin' Saddles: De Gendt and Wellens vow to ride home after Il Lombardia

04/10/2018 at 19:02

Lotto Soudal team-mates Tim Wellens and Thomas De Gendt announced a novel way to get home following the fifth and final monument of the season: they will cycle a thousand kilometres from Lombardy to Belgium with their luggage stuffed into saddlebags.

Just weeks after Larry Warbasse and Conor Dunne's #NoGoTour went viral, Belgian duo Tim Wellens and Thomas De Gendt will embark on their own bike-packing adventure – a six-day schlep from northern Italy to Belgian which will inevitably be dubbed the #TimTomTour.

De Gendt, who won La Vuelta's blue polka dot jersey last month, has already clocked up more than 12,000 kilometres across 87 days this season. So it's only natural that, after next Saturday's Il Lombardia, the breakaway specialist will add another thousand clicks in less than a week.

Riding with the bearded 31-year-old all-rounder from Lake Como to the Ghent suburb of Semmerzake will be his trusty sidekick, 27-year-old Wellens, winner of Stage 4 of the Giro this May.

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The Flemish duo's ride will take them through five countries and over two mountain ranges (and, in all likelihood, a bit of snow), covering an average of 167km per day for six days. A sneak peak at their proposed route – which De Gendt shared on Twitter this week – shows that one day after tackling the 241km Race of the Falling Leaves, the indefatigable pair will ride 183km as they pass from Italy into Switzerland via the San Gotthard pass, which rises above 2,000m.

Given De Gendt's track record, Wellens will surely be hoping his companion doesn't put in an early attack that would render him isolated for the most part of the day…

De Gendt also shared a picture of his bike-packing get-up, which includes a saddlebag, handlebar pack and a top-tube pouch. Ever the businessman, he also suggested that local sponsors could get involved to the tune of €1 per kilometre…

While #TimTomTour has a certain ring to it, other suggested hashtags include #TTroamhome, #OneLastBreakaway and the superlative #6DaysofDeGendt.

Tellingly, De Gendt was quick to get it in there that they started planning the ride back in May – the inference being that the idea pre-dates the online sensation that was the #NoGoTour.

Thomas De Gendt and Tim Wellens in the 2017 Tour de France

Thomas De Gendt and Tim Wellens in the 2017 Tour de FranceGetty Images

For those of you with your heads in the sand last month, the #NoGoTour emerged from the ashes of the Aqua Blue Sport implosion. With their team suddenly ceasing to exist, former American champion Warbasse and Dunne, the current Irish champion, found themselves out of contract and at a loose end. And with no Tour of Britain to ride, how better to put themselves in the shop window than by inviting the world to join them on an eight-day cycling adventure around the Alps?

Support came from all around the globe as two likable chaps, dealt a rubbish hand, turned lemons into sweet lemonade while falling back into love with the simple pleasures of riding their bikes.

They bit off more than they could chew…

They chewed more than most could bite off…

At times they looked like this century's answer to Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito…

Conor lost his flip flops…

But bought some sandals…

They sang songs (badly)…

They went swimming in mountain lakes…

They even gate-crashed a wedding…

All in all, their epic saw the Little-and-Large duo clock over 1,150km while bagging some mythical climbs in the process – including the Col d'Izoard, the Col Agnel, Alpe d'Huez and the gravelled hairpins of the Colle delle Finestre.

Their mountainous route was chartered by the kind folk at Massif Central…

They penned a daily blog for Rouleur…

Recorded an episode for the Cycling Podcast…

Who awarded Conor one of their famous Pedaleur de Charme t-shirts…

Soon, the BBC came calling…

Plus an invitation to bring the #NoGoTour to the Rouleur classic event this winter…

Most importantly, the ride won Larry a new contract…

While Dunne surfed the wave of popularity all the way to Innsbruck and the world championships, where he featured in the day's main break – and kept the #NoGo momentum going.

So, if one thing's clear, it's that De Gendt and Wellens have a lot to live to when they hit the road on Sunday 14 October.

Although, you already sense that the two Belgians won't have half as much fun as their predecessors. After all, given their attacking credentials, you doubt they'll have time to stop for coffee, pastries and the odd Instagram post – even if Danish team-mate Lars Bak has already promised to greet them with snacks at his home in Luxembourg when they pass through on day 4.

In fact, if you look a little more closely at the route they're taking, there's no doubting Thomas already has his mind firmly on the 2019 Tour de France: he's chosen to tackle roads through the Vosges which are tipped to feature in the race. It seems like someone is already planning when he'll attack next July…

While Lombardy to Belgium is a fair distance, at least their last race of the season isn't as far flung as, say, Istanbul. Spare a thought for Dutchman Jetse Bol, then, who faces a far longer ride home to Girona after this month's Tour of Turkey.

Bol was clearly joking – although as an 11-year-old he did once ride from the Netherlands to Madrid, so he does have some bike-packing pedigree. What next – pro riders taking on the Transcontinental?

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