"More than I expected"

The only team in the Tour de France with a wildcard, Agritubel, scored a huge win today when Spanish...

An interview with Juan Miguel Mercado, July 12, 2006

The only team in the Tour de France with a wildcard, Agritubel, scored a huge win today when Spanish climber Juan Miguel Mercado outsprinted Cyril Dessel (AG2R) in Pau. The two had attacked the leading break with just under 50 km to go, and finished an impressive 7'23 ahead of the peloton. Brecht Decaluwé reports on Mercado's second Tour stage victory.

Q: Today was a great day for you, how do you feel about your victory?

JMM: It's more than I expected. I tried to keep myself in front during the stage's opening hour. It took a while and I had to be patient, but once I was in the breakaway I was in a good position to win the stage.

Q: What happened during the final kilometres? We saw that you came across to Dessel and talked a bit.

JMM: Dessel was pretty sure about the yellow and the polkadot jersey and I risked to end up without nothing. I asked Dessel if I could have the stage, but he refused this. From then on, I stopped doing turns to gain some energy on him, that way I could fulfil my objective: winning the stage.

Q: Now that you won a stage and that you're third overall, does it change your objectives for this Tour de France?

JMM: Before today, my objective was to win a stage, so that's already accomplished. Tomorrow, I'll be wearing the polkadot jersey. Starting tomorrow, I'll work to capture that jersey. We'll see if I can keep up with the best riders to get the necessary points.

Q: Does that mean that won't focus on the GC?

JMM: Probably not, as there is another very long time trial at the end of the Tour. It would be very hard to perform well in that discipline. But the Tour is very open as I heard that behind us there were difficulties for some favourites, so you never know what happens...

Q: You've been riding for Quickstep in the past, now you're riding for a somewhat smaller team as Agritubel isn't in the ProTour. How do you feel about that?

JMM: It's true that this isn't a big team, but still we're riding big races that are part of the ProTour, like the Tour de France. Although there isn't that much money coming around, I'm feeling very comfortable with the team.

Q: Why did you leave Quickstep?

JMM: There were so many leaders in the team and I also had some health problems. I didn't compete in many races so I couldn't extend my contract. It was quite hard for me to find a team, as most of the teams had done their transfers at that time. Agritubel was perfect for me as there were also some Spanish riders. Now I'm very happy and I feel fine in that team.

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