Following this week's unveiling of the 2012 Tour de France route, French team AG2R La Mondiale has high hopes for Jean-Christophe Péraud who finished tenth overall at last year's Tour. At 34 years old, the former mountainbiker is an excellent climber as well and time triallist. With 96 kilometres against the clock announced for next year's Tour, Péraud should set himself higher objectives.
"This course has to suit Jean-Christophe Péraud," AG2R manager Vincent Lavenu told Eurosport. "He climbs well and does good time trials. So to have more time trials than last year is a good thing."
Péraud, who was French time trial champion in 2009, took part in his very first Tour de France this year but immediately entered the top ten. He also finished seventh at the Critérium du Dauphiné in June. His AG2R teammate Christophe Riblon was convinced that Péraud is "one of the best eight or ten riders in the mountains, so he has what it takes for the overall classification."
"It's a good Tour for him," Riblon told Velochrono. "This year, I saw how he rides, how he prepares his objectives. There are time trials and that's in his favour. In the mountains, we know what he can do. He might not be as good as Contador, but he can be ambitious and aim at a higher placing than this year."
Riblon added that he also saw Péraud's experience and bike-handling skills as major assets. The last few Tours have proven to be treacherous in its early stages and the 2012 route is likely to make no exception. "Péraud often races in front, within the first 20 to 40 riders. That's what you have to do, considering all these hilly and/or windy stages. The first real mountain stage will certainly be the one that starts in Albertville [stage 11], and with everything that we will have done before that, there will already be some impressive gaps in the classification!"
In the last Tour, the most prominent victims of early race crashes were Alberto Contador and Bradley Wiggins, whilst in 2010, Fränk Schleck had to abandon the event on stage three.