Peveragno and Cherasco are 50 km apart. In addition to being both in the province of Cuneo, they share the fact that the same 20-year-old Flemish boy won a stage of the Giro Next Gen in those towns. Gil Gelders, currently a Soudal-QuickStep DT rider, won in the former last year and in the latter today.
The coincidence, you will agree, is rather peculiar. Firstly, it is not so obvious for any rider to compete in more than one edition of the Giro Next Gen, especially for strong athletes capable of winning a few stages. In fact, if we flick through the list of stage winners in recent editions, we will easily notice that just a handful of riders have not turned pro the following year. After all, if you succeed in the most important category race in the world, it pretty much goes without saying that professional teams will seek you out and put you under contract.
Gelders seems to be the proverbial exception that proves the rule. Not that his victory last year went unnoticed – as a matter of fact, he took a major step forward by moving from the Bingoal WB development team to that of the Soudal-QuickStep battleship – but the fact is that he still does not have a professional contract. Thus, he is back in Italy, back in Piedmont, back in the Cuneo area, back to winning. The two successes share a common factor in the way they were achieved: an attack from afar, the kind that inflames the hearts of spectators.
Last year, the Belgian imposed himself after a narrow three-rider sprint, while today he had no choice but to go solo, as the peloton was closing in at full speed. No big difference, the outcome is exactly the same but, this time, we can be sure, this victory will earn him a one-way ticket to the world of the big guys. And if that wasn’t enough, this year he also won Gent-Wevelgem U23, finished 2nd in Paris-Roubaix and 7th in Liège-Bastogne-Liège. Not bad indeed.