By Jean-François Quénet in Stuttgart, Germany
Stef Clement's bronze medal performance at the World Time Trial championship on Thursday surprised everyone, even the rider himself.. "My goal was to make the top 15 and I thought finishing in the top 10 would have been exceptional," he said. "Now the top three is something absolutely fantastic. This is a day I'll never forget. The World's podium has always been my dream."
The two time Dutch national champion is known as a specialist in the time trial, and took third on the penultimate stage of the Tour of Spain behind Samuel Sanchez and Denis Menchov, so he clearly had good form prior to the race for the rainbow jersey. Clement had to work hard to recover from a rough start to the year marked by several crashes. He went down at GP Chiasso in the early season, during the ProTour team time trial in Eindhoven and again at the Dutch championship road race. His luck was poor at the Tour of Romandie where he had to pull out because of stomach troubles, and again at the Tour de France when he was time cut the day before the time trial in Albi, which was his first big goal for his first participation at the world's biggest cycling event.
"You learn more from the bad moments than from the good ones", the 25 year-old from Breda said. "Sometimes I got bad results, there was no explanation for it and I was disappointed, today is a great one, there's also no explanation and I'm very satisfied."
His next time trial is scheduled for October 21 at the Chrono des Nations, where he hopes to improve on last year's fifth place finish. His team manager from Bouygues Telecom Jean-René Bernaudeau announced publicly that his team would target to win the race "within three years". Clement would be a logical favourite for the prestigious time trial held in Les Herbiers in Vendée just a few miles away from the headquarters of his team. Should he win in front of his French fans, he'd have to rush for making his flight to Mexico in time. That's where he has planned to spend his well deserved holidays this year after a chaotic but brilliant third pro season.