RACE: Giro d’Italia
DATE: Saturday 6 – Sunday 28 May
Derek Gee started this year’s Giro d’Italia with the stated aim of “just trying to survive”. He ended the first Grand Tour of the 2023 season as its breakout star.
Even now, over half a year removed, his accomplishments still have the power to amaze. Breakaway attempts on seven of the race’s 18 road stages. Four second places, two fourth places. Over 1,000 kilometres spent clear of the peloton.
“Coming into this Giro, I thought I had no chance,” said Gee after completing stage eight of his maiden Grand Tour appearance. “I was just trying to survive and get experience so this is amazing.”
Such was the impact Gee had on the race, fans at the roadside soon began yelling his name. That’s likely because the breakaways he made it into weren’t the typical flat stage, let’s-hope-the-sprinters-teams-miscalculate moves. The first – on stage eight – was a classic Giro transition stage, with 207 racing kilometres to boot. Gee dubbed stage 13, the shortened day that ended at Crans-Montana in Switzerland, as his hardest of the race (complete with a normalised power output of 395 watts). The Monte Bondone stage featured over 5,000 metres of climbing, while stage 19 to Tre Cime di Lavaredo included the ascents of the Passo Valparola and Passo Giau.
The closest he came to success – not to mention a first pro victory outside of the Canadian time trial championships – was at Cassano Magnago, when German rider Nico Denz edged him out in a five-rider sprint. “I’m sure when I look back, I will be happy,” Gee said afterward. “But for now, this one really, really hurts.” This followed an agonisingly close call four days earlier, when Magnus Cort pipped him after a day in the rain at Viareggio.
Down, but not out, Gee will use his experience from the Giro to make him a better rider in future editions. “Four second places hurt for sure, but it makes me hungrier moving forward to get that first win,” he said. “I can’t wait to be back.”