By Hedwig Kröner in Digne-les-Bains
Going into the Alps, French team AG2R La Mondiale has a clear vision of its objectives: getting into the breakaways to achieve a possible stage win, and ride well enough to maintain its position in the Tour de France team classification. "Except Tadel Valjavec and Vladimir Efimkin, who are well-placed on GC and will try to stick to the favourites, our goal is to get into escape groups," said Cyril Dessel one day before the race was destined to move into Italy.
"It's important to be in front, as we value the teams classification very much. At the moment, we are placed second, and in order to keep a spot within the top five in Paris we'll have to be represented up front in the coming mountain stages."
Dessel, whose excellent form during the month of June was rewarded with stage wins at the Volta a Catalunya and the Dauphiné Libéré, has not been able to keep his peak shape at the Tour.
"I feel better now, but I was very tired prior to the first rest day. After a week of racing, I just felt fatigue settling in. I had some health problems and couldn't train as I wanted to between the Dauphiné and the Tour, so I lost a bit of form then."
Nevertheless, Dessel hoped to be able to redeem himself in the Alps. "It would be great to win a stage at the Tour - I finished second, or third already, that's not too bad, is it?" he laughed, referring to stage 9 in the Pyrenees, won by Riccardo Riccò who later failed a drugs test for EPO.
"One stage that always makes you dream is of course the Alpe d'Huez, because it's mythical," he added, on a more serious note. "But I know that the Col Agnel tomorrow is definitely going to be very hard, too."