The Lotto-Dstny veteran will target stage wins at the Volta a Catalunya and Vuelta a España next season, but has said that he hopes to spend time racing in Asia at Continental level, saying that the chance to race there would “broaden the horizons.”
Speaking to Het Nieuwsblad, the 37-year-old said that he “still wants to keep cycling a lot”, adding that he’s keen to continue exploring off-road racing, too, having already competed in several gravel races in recent years.
“I’ll stop at professional level, but it could just as well be that I’ll continue at Continental level. I still want to keep cycling a lot. Together with one of my best friends, Willem Wauters, we want to take in a lot of off-road events like the Cape Epic MTB race or gravel races in the USA,” he said before talking about the potential to go to Asia.
“I would also like to race in Asia – Taiwan, Thailand, Indonesia, South Korea – purely for fun and about 40 race days a year. There are enough Continental teams who already want to contract a European rider for some stage races in Asia.
“At the Tour of Langkawi, I saw that those small Asian teams are well organised. My former teammate Raymond Kreder rides for the Japanese team Ukiyo. For half of the year, they leave him alone and then once in a while he comes over for the Tour of Japan, Thailand, Taiwan.
“That’s an experience I want to gain. It broadens the horizons and there’s always a different, relaxed atmosphere there. Spending two or three years like that seems like a good idea to me.”
He said that should his Asian dream not work out, then he’d be open to racing at Continental or club level in Belgium, though he’d still be in favour of taking on a much-reduced calendar.
In the past three seasons De Gendt has raced 77, 97, and 79 days, and he said that he wouldn’t be able to go from that to zero.
“If that doesn’t work out then I hope for a homegrown Continental team or club to compete in some races with,” he said. “But the intention is not for me to race as an elite all year round. On the other hand, I don’t know if it’s healthy to suddenly say ‘boom, bang, done’ after all these years on the bike.”
De Gendt’s final season will mark his 10th with Lotto-Dstny after spells with Topsport Vlaanderen, Vacansoleil and QuickStep which saw him win stages at Paris-Nice, the Tour de Suisse, Volta a Catalunya and the Giro d’Italia, also finishing second at the latter in 2012.
Over the years, he’s established himself as a breakaway specialist, and since joining Lotto he’s won two stages at the Tour de France, four more in Catalunya, and one apiece at the Giro and Vuelta.
He said that a part of his decision arose from the months spent at home during the COVID-19 pandemic, the result being that it has since been harder to be away from home and his children for long periods.
He had initially planned to retire in 2022, but his “level was still too good” and he found Lotto offering him a contract after the wins kept coming.
“I’m 99% sure that it will be my last year,” De Gendt said, referring to his new decision to hang up his wheels. “If I really feel like I’m not completely finished, and I get to a better level again… But it will definitely not be a two-year contract.
“That’s one big question mark,” he added when asked about his future beyond racing. “I hope for some job offers. If they don’t come, then I’ll have to find something myself. I only have certain expertise in cycling.
“However, it may well be that six years later, everything I know and say about racing is no longer relevant. Racing changes a lot – for example, I lived through the days when top riders kept quiet until the final 20km but now they start 100km from the finish.”