For the very first time in his career, Kevin Geniets will be at the start of the Tour de France this Friday, in Copenhagen. First rider to have made it to the WorldTeam from the Conti in 2019, he will therefore also be the first former rider of the Conti to take part in the Tour. The former Luxembourg champion will not be able to show off his national colours in July, but he will still achieve a childhood dream. Most importantly, he knows what’s expected of him as a domestique throughout the three weeks. He shared his feelings with us two days before the Grand Départ.
Kevin, what is your feeling thinking you’ll be starting the Tour in a few hours?
It’s really special. It’s the race I’ve watched on TV since I was little, it’s the race everyone talks about. So, finally being at the start myself really means something. On the one hand, I think it is the logical next step in my progression. On the other hand, I am aware that it is a real privilege to be here. Some WorldTour riders never get that opportunity. I did the Olympics last year and I’m doing the Tour de France this year. These are the two events I have always dreamed of riding. When you finish your career, people usually ask you what events you took part in. I will be able to say: the Olympics and the Tour, it does sound class. I really feel like I’m ticking an important box of my cycling career. The first question from people who are not that interested in cycling is always: did you do the Tour? If all goes well, I will soon be able to say yes, proudly.
“I’m kind of proud that I got my spot”
Do you feel a bit nervous tackling this new adventure?
On the one hand, I am excited, on the other, I know a little about what awaits me, as I already did a Grand Tour last year. A lot of people might think it’s pure fun for three weeks, but when you’re a cyclist, you know exactly what it is like. There are highs, but also lows and extremely hard moments at the end, when you are really tired. You’re passing through tough times on a Grand Tour. I want to enjoy this experience, but I am realistic, and I know what is coming. Before competing in the Vuelta last year, I didn’t know how my body was going to react over three weeks. When you have never done a Grand Tour, it even seems a little unrealistic because you finish races like Dauphiné already exhausted. You come to wonder how they manage to keep on going for two more weeks. Eventually, the body does reach a certain level of fatigue, but it doesn’t go down that much. You remain at a very decent level despite being tired. Anyway, it is clear that I am much more serene at the start of this Tour than I was last year starting the Vuelta.
Was it a real goal to be on the Tour this year for you?
It was a bit of a plan since this winter indeed. We talked about the role I had in the team, and the importance it could have in the biggest races. I had the wish to do it, but so did the team. They know my strengths and what I can bring. My personal goal was also to take the next step, and therefore to go on the Tour. We worked together for this project. It was the season’s main objective, but everything had to go well. The start of the season went ok, the Dauphiné went well, and little by little, I made my steps into the line-up. After the Dauphiné, I was quite confident. It’s kind of the career plan I had hoped for, but in sport, things don’t always go the way you want. So far, for me, everything has gone really well, and I have continued to improve every year. I would not necessarily have believed that my second Grand Tour would be the Tour, but I feel ready.
Did you have to prove your worth more than usual?
I think so, but I didn’t want to focus on that. My goal was to do the best possible job, as I did in the Dauphiné or during the Classics. I was not necessarily thinking about the Tour, I was not putting any particular pressure on myself to win my spot. However, I tried to do my best, and the selection came naturally. It’s already very satisfying to be in the WorldTour, but to be one of the eight guys picked to do the Tour is even more special. I’m kind of proud that I got my spot.
“I noticed that I passed yet another small milestone on the Dauphiné”
Have you worked differently?
Since last year, I have been splitting my seasons into two different parts. In the first one, with the Classics, I am a little heavier and I work more on my puncher’s abilities. After the Classics, I lean more towards climbing and long, threshold kind-of efforts. Last year, it already worked well, and I was not so bad in the Dauphiné mountains. This year, I noticed that I passed yet another small milestone, on the Dauphiné again.
You gained confidence during the Critérium du Dauphiné?
Totally. When David won, I was for the first time able to finish fifth in such a hard finish, against the best. It also opened my eyes a bit to my abilities on this kind of finish. In the morning, I probably would not have thought I could finish fifth, just behind Van Aert. I am also happy with what I showed in the mountains. In fact, everything has been going well so far. After the Dauphiné, I went back to altitude in Tignes, with Valentin and David at the beginning. Then, I stayed a few days on my own, and it went really well. In the Luxembourg championship, I had good legs, but it was difficult to manage tactically. I am confident with my shape. It was harder for my first Grand Tour last year, because I was just coming back from the Olympics, and I felt that I was not at the top of my form at the start. This time, I feel that everything went well, I don’t feel tired. I’ve managed everything well so far, but it’s just the beginning.
What will be your role on this Tour de France?
I know exactly my role, we had meetings with the sports directors on that matter. My role will be to stay as long as possible with David, to protect him, to be there for him. It will be like that during the whole Tour, and potentially on every kind of terrain. On the first stages, and especially on the cobbles, I will be able to bring my experience of the Classics. Then, we’ll see how much I’ll be able to help in the mountains, but I showed in the Dauphiné that I was capable of giving a hand.
“I feel that David trusts me”
What is your relationship with David?
It’s going really well. We have done more and more races together since last year, especially thinking about what’s coming now. We were also together in training camps in Tignes, on the Teide, and we are therefore starting to get to know each other very, very well. In racing, I feel that he trusts me, that he stays in my wheel, and that’s something important. It makes my job a lot easier.
Are you sad not to be able to show your Luxembourg colours on this Tour?
A bit, because I think I’ve gotten used to the jersey a little over the past two years. It was really special, and I was also proud to wear it now that I live in France. I always had a little piece of Luxembourg with me. It was hard to let it go, but there is more to it than that.
What should we wish you for this Tour?
I just hope that the work I’ve done upstream will pay off, that I will be able to show what I can do, and that we can see each other again in three weeks in Paris.