After 14 professional seasons, Frenchman Cédric Vasseur will bring his career to a close. The two-time Tour de France stage winner became a national hero overnight when he spent five days in the yellow jersey in 1997. At the Kampioenschap Van Vlaanderen he reflected on his career and he was very happy with what he had accomplished, as Cyclingnews' Bjorn Haake found out.
Cédric Vasseur's decision to retire wasn't precipitated by any key moment, rather, it was something that had slowly unfolded over time. "I am 37 years old and have been a professional for 14 years," Vasseur observed, and he wasn't sure how much more he could get out of the sport.
"I can't win the Tour de France and I can't win Paris-Roubaix. I am not a great champion like Museeuw, Bettini or Boonen. But with the means I had, I did win the races I could," said the Frenchman modestly, having just returned from a brilliant second place at the GP Wallonie.
Despite the lack of great wins, Vasseur's entire career changed when, in 1997, he held the maillot jaune in the Tour de France for five days. It was only Vasseur's third full year as a professional, having turned pro in August of 1994, and the days in yellow changed him both mentally and physically. Riding for the French team GAN, Vasseur soloed to victory on stage five in La Chatre, and then held on to the lead for five days. And in a performance that would be repeated by his younger compatriot Thomas Voeckler years later, Vasseur fought his way through a decisive day in the Pyrenees behind an attacking Jan Ullrich on stage nine, just barely holding on for one more day by 13 seconds.
"The yellow jersey helped me a lot. You go over your limits when you have yellow. You can't do some of those things when you don't wear the maillot jaune," he reflected on those days where he battled hard against the top riders in the world, carried by a wave of enthusiasm that rolled through the entire country.
"It puts you in a different mindset," he reminisced on that year when he raced for the French team GAN. Not only did he stretch the limits of his abilities on the bike, his time in yellow also changed his ambitions. "I think it changed my career a bit," Vasseur said and added that "it increased my athletic appetite."
Since the days of Bernard Hinault there haven't been many Frenchmen in the leader's jersey of La Grande Boucle, and the nation celebrated his time in the lead of the race. "The maillot jaune is the greatest. I could show myself to the public. When you have yellow and you are French, then everybody follows you and encourages you."
To read the full interview with Cédric Vasseur, click here.