Cedric Vasseur: Losing the yellow jersey like a gentleman - Podcast

A Frenchman who captured a nation's heart at the 1997 Tour de France

It's July 10, 1997, and an unknown Frenchman is about to ride himself into folklore at the Tour de France.

Cedric Vasseur, a young domestique is racing just his second Tour as part of the Gan team. The French outfit are an eclectic mix of nationalities with Roger Legeay at the helm.

Gan start the race with a bang as British rider Chris Boardman wins the prologue in Rouen and as the race heads south-west through Brittany, the rest of the team begin to look for more opportunities in the race.

They lose the maillot jaune with Mario Cipollini and the bunch sprinters deciding the next few stages, but on stage 5 from Chantonnay to La Chatre, Vasseur sees his chance and claims not just a surprise stage win but the maillot jaune to become a French hero.

Vausser's story is everything to embrace and love about the Tour de France – a tale of a young French rider fighting both the odds and the peloton before eventually claiming glory in front of an adoring public.

Yet Vasseur's tale is as much about how he lost the yellow jersey as how he won it. The Gan rider held the race lead all the way until the first mountain with everyone, even the French commentators expecting him to lose it on the brutally tough stage 9 from Pau to Loundenville.

Everything went to script on the early climbs with Vassuer dropped several times as he battled the gradient. It looked as though Festina and Telekom would decide the new leadership when Laurent Brochard soloed to the win but, as the clock ticked by, the finish Vasseur came into view. He has started the day with close to a three-minute lead on the main GC contenders and as the crowd made a collective double take Vasseur sprinted for the line to hold onto his dream for another day. It was a ride that the Frenchman admits today was even better than his win on stage 5.

The following day Vasseur would eventually give up his maillot jaune with the German Jan Ullrich wining at Arcalis. But not before Vasseur would win both the respect of his peers and adoration of the fans with an audacious, futile but utterly beautiful attack before the last climb.

At the 2017 Tour, Vasseur is part of the establishment – not the peloton – and works as an on-board motorbike commentator for French television. In a start village during the first week Cyclingnews editor Daniel Benson met with Vasseur to re-live his 1997 story.

 

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