A promising junior, Lilian Calmejane was quick to make his mark in the professional peloton with Direct Energie as the 23-year-old won the best young rider classification at February's La Méditerranéenne on his stage race debut. Fast forward to August and and four days into Calmejane's debut grand tour, the Vuelta a Espana, and he was celebration a maiden victory atop San Andre de Teixido.
"I knew that on the Vuelta, unexpected things can happen. Now it's something that happens to me that I wasn't ready for," Calmejane said. "But I have had good sensations since the start of the season. You have to take your chances and not make a complex because you're a neo-pro. We saw last year that someone like Alexis Gougeard could win in his first year as a pro. Grand Tours are races in which breakaways are more often successful than in one-day races."
On approach to the line, Calmejane started his celebration by throwing both arms in the air before pointing to the sky in remembrance of Romain Guyot, who was killed in a March training ride accident.
"The first thing I thought about was to zip up my jersey, for me and for our sponsor Direct Energie who took over the team last year. I had a thought for Romain of course, as he was a friend of mine. I think that today he must be happy," he explained.
With the emergence of Thibaut Pinot and Romain Bardet as Tour de France challengers, Calmejane was quick to explained that he doesn't see himself as a grand tour contender but added that he is still a young rider.
"I won a stage of the Vuelta on my fourth day in my first Grand Tour, but now I feel like continuing to race day by day. I have time ahead of me," he said. "I already took a lot of pleasure at the start of the season in Paris-Nice. I like time trials. I ride in all kinds of domains. I would love to discover the Ardennes classics as they suit my profile. I don't want to set myself limits. In the team, we are lucky to have a rider like Thomas Voeckler. He's very nice to me. It's thanks to riders like him who bring you their confidence and experience that you grow up."
While excited to have taken his first win, Calmejane added that his ambitions for the Vuelta are far from over.
I didn't come for the GC. I came to go in the breaks and have fun. Now everything that comes on top of it is extra. I'm going to go on like this, in a good, friendly atmosphere. The GC, some riders are better equipped than I am," he said.