News feature, January 18, 2007
The Tour de France can change a rider's awareness anywhere. Shall Cyril Dessel have thought he has become popular only in his own country by wearing the yellow jersey for one day in the Pyrenees and finishing seventh overall, he can now realize that he's become a household name as far away as Australia as well. One year ago, he was an anonymous member of the Ag2r Prévoyance team who led Simon Gerrans to the victory in the Tour Down Under. Now, on the finishing line of Tanunda, he was assaulted by autograph seekers. An Australian family came and asked him to put his mark on a bidon thrown away by him during the Tour de l'Ain that he won in August last year and collect by them as they were on holiday in Annecy.
"Until the end of November, my life had been a little bit disturbed by different launches and meetings that I attended," he said. "But in December, I almost turned my phone off. At least, I started refusing some requests. I went back to Ag2r's training camps and I've followed about the same preparation as last year. I'm trying to delay my peak form though.
"When I came back from Australia one year ago, I was in good form and I won the Tour Méditerranéen. Later I almost made the top-10 in Paris-Nice. Now I'd like to be at my best in Paris-Nice because this is the first very important event of the year for us. I'll try to do well at the Tour de France again. Winning a stage or a good ranking on GC will always be my goals but for now I focus on the first part of the season. It will take some pressure off at the time of the Tour de France if I've done something good before."
"Winning a stage or a good ranking on GC will always be my goals ..." - Dessel on the Tour de France.
Dessel remembers it was a hard job to keep the lead for Gerrans in the 2006 Tour Down Under. "As a defending champion we knew that Simon was under pressure today, but we also knew that we don't have the team for doing the same effort this year," Dessel continued. "Stéphane Goubert didn't come [because of the death of his father - ed.] and Carl Naibo's knee is injured, so we have started with a team of six really."
In these conditions, it wasn't exactly a disaster for Ag2r when their new signing Martin Elmiger failed beating Karl Menzies for the win in stage 1. "Then we won't have to defend the jersey," Dessel underlined. "And we are still likely to win the Tour Down Under."
Ag2r has actually adopted the rhythm of an overall win in Adelaide every three years with Gilles Maignan, Mikel Astarloza and Gerrans. Mathematically, they can take it easy. However, they have a good card to play with the former Swiss champion who might be a better climber than Menzies in Willunga Hill on Saturday. "It's always better to win a stage, especially the first race of the year," Elmiger commented on the finishing line. "But I'm happy with this second place because Menzies was fresher than all of us anyway. I didn't think I was this much ready for the start of the new season. It means I've worked well."