The strange Giro jersey that Thomas De Gendt won without even trying

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Few men in world cycling have claimed more jerseys than Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal). Sprint classifications, king of the mountain classifications, combativity prizes, even the odd leader’s jersey — The Belgian has been handsomely rewarded for his aggressive and entertaining racing. But on stage 10 of the 2019 Giro d’Italia De Gendt won perhaps the strangest and most unexpected jersey of his career, and all without realising he’d done so.

Several hours after the conclusion of stage 10, Twitter user La Flamme Rouge shared a rather cryptic communique from race organisers announcing that De Gendt was “the winner of today’s prize sprint” and that the 32-year-old would be “rewarded tomorrow at signature check”.

A short time later De Gendt himself replied in the same Twitter thread, saying he’d picked up the prize without even realising:

It’s little wonder De Gendt was unaware of the prize he’d earned — it isn’t mentioned in the race’s official handbook, ‘Il Garibaldi’, nor does it appear in the official stage maps or profiles given to riders. And while there is a roadside gantry to designate the “prize sprint”, it would be hard to tell from a quick glance what the gantry is for … particularly when you’re leading the bunch into a roundabout, at the business end of a Grand Tour sprint stage.

So what is this strange “prize sprint” that De Gendt won? Quite simply, it’s an effort to promote the Milano-Cortina d’Ampezzo bid for the 2026 Winter Olympics. The two cities’ combined effort is one of two remaining bids for the 2026 Games, the other coming from Stockholm–Åre in Sweden. The International Olympic Committee is set to choose a winner next month.

The Milano-Cortina bid is being promoted in two ways at the Italian Grand Tour: via the Giro E, a parallel e-bike race through Italy that features athletes from a range of Olympic sports; and in the Giro itself, with a daily jersey (excluding time trials) for the first rider across the line 26km from the finish (a nod to the 2026 Games).

With 26km to go in stage 10, the two-rider breakaway had been caught and Thomas De Gendt was on the front of the peloton, driving the pace for sprinter Caleb Ewan.

When he signs on for stage 11 in Carpi later today, De Gendt will be given a white Milano-Cortina jersey. He won’t wear the jersey during the race, but he will pose with it briefly, just as Astana’s Andrey Zeits did at the start of stage 8 (see below) or Luke Durbridge (Mitchelton-Scott) did on the stage 4 (see feature image above).

For a man who’s won jerseys galore — not least the king of the mountains jersey at the Vuelta a Espana — a jersey promoting a foreign country’s Winter Olympics bid is hardly the most exciting prize he’s claimed. But it might just be the first time he’s won a jersey without realising it.

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