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Who is Derek Gee? Giro d’Italia sensation is a track Olympian with birds on the brain

Who is Derek Gee? Giro d’Italia sensation is a track Olympian with birds on the brain

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Forget Geraint “G” Thomas.

Canadian revelation Derek Gee has been the “G” to watch at this year’s Giro d’Italia.

Gee confirmed his creds Saturday as the breakout sensation of this corsa rosa when he notched his third second-place finish in what is just his debut grand tour.

And there’s more to Gee than just attacking antics and near-misses. The Ottowa-born all-rounder is a multiple track champion, keen ornithologist, and Israel-Premier Tech’s brightest unpolished diamond.

“This is the closest one yet. I did everything I could today,” Gee said Saturday after he was nipped at the line Saturday by Nico Denz. “I’m sure when I look back I’ll be happy, but for now, this one really really hurts.”

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Another second-place finish stung hard for Gee after Saturday’s 14th stage.

But a hat trick of close calls was likely a lot more than the 25-year-old ever expected from his first grand tour.

“I’m disappointed that after all the work the team did for me, I couldn’t take the win today. The stage was 200km long, but if it could have been just a few meters longer, that would have been nice,” he joked.

From the Olympic boards to the Giro breakaways

Gee teamed up with Michael Foley for the Madison at the Tokyo Olympics, and was part of the Canadian four that placed fifth in the TP. (Photo: Tim de Waele/Getty Images)

If the name “Derek Gee” seems familiar, that’s because it is.

The strapping young talent is a multiple Canadian track champion, and was one of the four that took his country to bronze in the 2018 Commonwealth Games team pursuit.

Gee hit his track career-high when he raced the Olympic madison and team pursuit in Canadian blue in Tokyo, and now sees his longer-term future on the tarmac.

An extra-impressive switch to full-time road racing with Israel Cycling Academy in 2022 earned Gee a three-year deal with Sylvan Adams’ ProTeam squad in what is becoming a voyage of breakaway discovery.

“I’m curious with a full calendar this year what sort of rider I’ll become,” he said this spring in a team-produced video. “Last year was a huge learning curve starting road full time and trying to find the dynamic in the peloton.”

Gee is riding a rollercoaster carriage through his first full spring season.

He missed the time cut in Strade Bianche, dramatically shed a tire when bumping in the breakaway at Paris-Roubaix, and has now stood on the Giro podium beneath heavy hitters Ben Healy, Magnus Cort, and on Saturday, double stage-winner Denz.

🏁 94km

Crevaison impressionnante de 🇨🇦@DerekGee7 dans la trouée d’Arenberg.

🇨🇦@DerekGee7 suffered a spectacular puncture in the trouée d’Arenberg.#ParisRoubaix pic.twitter.com/fc52uLkSfQ

— Paris-Roubaix (@parisroubaix) April 9, 2023

Not bad for a rider who started the corsa rosa expecting to be pulling for team captains Domenico Pozzovivo and Simon Clarke.

“A successful season would be to find what kind of rider I could be, to find where my strengths and weaknesses are, and to hopefully to make big contributions to the big guys on the team, the guys that go for those massive wins,” he said.

“A big part of it will be doing a big variation in the types of races I do and come out of 2023 with a good picture of how to progress and how to get big results in 2024 and ’25.”

If Gee is trying to discover where he fits best, he’s making his own life difficult this Giro.

He hung with the climbers of the shortened mountain stage to Crans-Montana, was best-of-the-rest behind Healy in the Ardennes-style Fossombrone final last weekend, and still counts himself as a time triallist.

“Coming into this Giro, I thought I had no chance, I was just trying to survive and get experience, so this is amazing,” he said after he scored second on stage 8 last weekend.

Riding bikes, thinking about birds

Gee made the break at Paris-Roubaix until he rode his tire off the rim on the Arenberg. (Photo: Luc Claessen/Getty Images)

Judging by his interviews, Gee is a gentle giant. He goofs at his disappointments and seems surprised by the depth of his talent.

And so it somehow doesn’t seem a surprise to learn he harbors one of the most genteel hobbies in the peloton.

“Over COVID I spend a lot of my free time ‘birding,’ looking for rare birds, taking pictures of them,” he said. “I saw a Summer Tanager at the southernmost point of its range. I know this makes me sound like an old person, but I just really love birding.”

Gee told Canadian Cycling Magazine he’s on a mission to document every bird he encounters in the international calendar of his rookie ProTeam season.

He’s likely getting a slightly better view of Italy’s ornithology from all the podiums he’s stepped on these past two weeks.

 

 

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