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Derek Gee: "Giro d'Italia was a little intimidating"

2023 was the year in which Canadian powerhouse Derek Gee made himself known to the cycling world with some incredible performances. In our Watts Under the Hood podcast Derek joined us to delve further into the details of his blossoming career so far.

© Canadian Cycling Magazine

Have you always been competing in both road and track?

Derek Gee: "I did track and road up until I was a first-year junior. Then I decided to stop competing in track cycling. It was full focus on road for my entire two-year junior career where I went to the Junior World Championships two times. I actually kind of quit the sport as I believed that cycling wasn’t for me, so I went and studied for a year at university. It was in a chemistry lab experiment where I just got the thought that I belonged back on a bike. The pathway back to competing in cycling was through the national team where the coach reached out to me enquiring if I wanted to race in track as a road to the Olympics. There was also a low-level road programme on the side of this."

Who were your biggest cycling inspirations growing up?

"The biggest one for me has to be Fabian Cancellara. I really love time trials and I was really into them as a young boy. Where I'm from there's the Ottawa Cycling Club. They ran weekly fifteen kilometer time trials. I actually have been competing in those ever since I was nine years old. The culture of the area made me fall in love with time trials. So of course, Fabian Cancellara’s time trial ability mixed with what he could do in the classics meant I really looked up to him. Another one is Zdeněk Štybar, because I watched so much cyclo-cross during the winter months in Canada on the trainer."

When did you find out Israel - Premier Tech was interested in you?

"I reached out to them myself in the build up to the Olympics. The performance manager Paulo said I had really good numbers because my one-off performances from the track were really good. There was no way to try and prove I could race a road bike. Paulo told me to find a team and display that I can race and demonstrate the power I possessed. At the end of 2021 he then reached out asking if I had a team, but I didn't... I would end up earning a spot on their development team."

In the 2022 Gran Camiño individual time trial you achieved a 5th place with a dodgy time trial position. What was that like?

"It was a mix of things that went into myself achieving that result. The start list involved a lot of pure climbers, so it maybe was more of a showing of what I can actually produce. The team thought that if I fixed my time trial position, I could achieve even better results down the line. The fact that a lot of the teams sent their best climbers made the race really hard, but to get a fifth place in the time trial, I was ecstatic."

© Stefan Ritter

You became the 2022 Canadian national time trial champion just a few months after Gran Camiño. What were the improvements you had to make?

"There were lots of improvements to be made. Simply there is always massive room for improvement in my time trial position, but it actually kind of became a running joke in our track team. Everyone on the team had these amazing positions whilst I am sitting up seeing everything. I may not have the best position, but I am slowly working on it."

At the 2022 ITT World Championships you achieved a top 20 finish. Do you think this performance was better than the one at the National Championships?

"Power wise I am actually not sure. I think the national championships were my best ever power for an hour. The World Championships were held on a tricky course, where the gas went on and off the whole time. I don’t think the power was as good at the world’s compared to the National Championships, where I did around 430W for the hour. Still to this day I think that was my best performance over an hour in my career so far, certainly in a race. Besides that, my preparation for the world's was slightly affected by the crash I suffered in a track race at the Commonwealth Games. I tore my bicep and was only able to train on my trainer at home as I couldn’t fully support myself on the bike."

What is the best 4 minutes power performance you have ever done?

"The best performance that I actually ever did would be 600W. That was me in my peak when I was doing track, going to the gym twice a week and being a little bit heavier than I am now."

We all saw your 2023 Giro climbing performances during the mountain stages. Were you expecting to perform like that?

"The Giro was actually a little intimidating. I was looking at the stage profiles and the riders lining up next to me. They were all 5ft2 (around 1m60, red.) and weighing 50 kg. I knew they would do some damage. Definitely compared to my numbers: 6ft2 (around 1m88, red.) and 76 kg!"

Did the fact that you came close to victory multiple times at Giro affect you mentally?

"Not really. At the time I felt like I was in the fight again time after time and that feeling was sweet. When I look back on it now though I am looking at where I could have made that final cutting edge on all those stages. Especially when it comes to the second and third time I finished second. I look at what I could have done differently in those stages to make up those small differences."

"It is frustrating as well considering I was in seven breakaways at the Giro, six of those made it to the finish line. I know how rare that is not from a what I did perspective but from how the race was ridden as a whole perspective. I realise the next Grand Tour that I compete in maybe only four of the breakaways will actually make it to the line and it's possible I won't be in any of them."

I realise the next Grand Tour that I compete in maybe only four of the breakaways will actually make it to the line and it's possible I won't be in any of them

How did you recover from all of those crazy efforts?

"I genuinely don’t know. I was not sleeping well at all. The conditions of the race played a major role as it was raining continuously for two weeks. Being a bigger guy, I think that made a big difference as I wasn't really affected by the elements compared to the smaller guys."

"I also loved eating all of the food after the stages. I didn't stop eating one single bit. On the bike it was breakfast and post ride it was dinner time. In the shortened stage I didn't think I would be in the breakaway, so I only packed solid food. In the valley I was cramming all of the bars in me, which were not easily digestible. On the other hand, the healthy food made by our chef for when were off the bike was simply so good you just felt so spoiled. At the end of the Giro, I actually came out weighing 73 kg compared to my 76 kg at the start!"

We have talked about watts already but what is your best 20-minute performance watts wise?

"This one I am a bit sceptical about as I think my power meter was wrong, but I am going to go with it anyway. It was actually last year at the continental team’s training camp. I did a 20-minute performance in the range of 490W. I haven’t come close since. That was for sure my best performance watts wise."

Watch the entire Watts Under The Hood episode with Derek Gee below:

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