Anthony Charteau received a considerable consolation prize after missing the opportunity for a Tour de France stage win: the polka dot jersey. The Bbox Bouygues Telecom rider has dethroned his compatriot Jérôme Pineau and has promised to fight for the king of the mountains title.
"I played it very badly in the finale," Charteau said after the stage in Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne. "I panicked because of the return of Andy Schleck and I was pushed into the barricades, then I couldn't pass on the side.
"I was sprinting against riders who are more used to fighting for victories than me. I should have stayed on Sandy's wheel."
The 31-year-old developed into an accomplished rider when he competed for Crédit Agricole in 2006 and 2007. When the team's French sponsor analysed its TV exposure, the mostly commonly seen squad member was Charteau, who worked as much in preparation for Thor Hushovd's sprints as for general classification contender Pietro Caucchioli in the mountains.
Charteau was one of the first Frenchmen to win a ProTour race, with a stage at the Volta Catalunya in 2005, although he wasn't selected by Bouygues Telecom for the Tour de France that year as he was a late exclusion after the French championship.
He won Le Tour de Langkawi in Malaysia for Crédit Agricole in 2007, which remains the highlight of his racing career. As soon as he returned to Jean-René Bernaudeau's team this year after two discrete seasons at Caisse d'Epargne, he was a winner again at the Tropicale Amissa Bongo in Gabon.
"With my experiences in Asia and Africa, I'm used to racing in hot conditions and I hope this heat will continue until the end of the Tour de France," Charteau told reporters.
The fight is on now between him and Jérôme Pineau for the polka dot jersey. Both have 85 points but Charteau will wear the jersey on stage 10. Interestingly, Pineau and Charteau both come from the same town: Nantes, in the west of France.
Pineau is from the north of the city and Charteau from the south. They rode together in the amateur club Vendée U and turned pro together with Bernaudeau's team, Bonjour, in 2001 and 2002. Charteau went back to Bouygues under the insistence of Thomas Voeckler, who is his close friend and training companion.
"I didn't think I'd take the jersey to Jérôme today," said Charteau. "So now I regret that I didn't sprint for the points at the top of the col des Aravis." Charteau did experience the sensation of being the first to crest the highest climb of the Alps this year, the col de la Madeleine at 2000 metres, however.
"With the crowd at the top, it was impressive," he said. "To be with Cunego and Luis Leon Sanchez up there means something. Thomas [Voeckler] told me I'm the best Frenchman in the big climbs this year. Now it's up to me to defend the jersey. I won't ask the whole team to ride for that. Jérôme [Pineau] is a faster sprinter than me."