By Hedwig Kröner in Jausiers
The second French victory at this Tour de France is not only special to the Grande Nation because it was French, but also because stage winner Cyril Dessel has come back a long way to grab his first success at the Grande Boucle. The AG2R rider first came into the limelight at the Tour two years ago, when he conquered the yellow jersey for a day, missing out on a victory only by a hair.
But since then, Dessel was anonymous again. The 2007 season of the Frenchman was a blank one, due to a toxoplasmosis infection which took all of his energy. But Dessel came back in spring, took some of his finest victories in June with stage wins at the Volta a Catalunya and the Dauphiné Libéré, and now added "the cherry on the cake", the French equivalent of the icing.
"This victory is very special to me," said an overjoyed Dessel in the finish. "Last year, I was really at the lowest ebb. The Tour de France public was waiting for me because I had done really well the year before, but I just couldn't perform because of my illness. Fortunately, I could count on the support of my family and the team, which allowed me to rest for two months after the Tour.
"In the beginning of November, a long period of hard work started. I had to start over from scratch, basically. During winter, I got the first signs that I was getting better, as I recovered well from the training sessions, whereas the winter before, I was just powerless all the time. The winter was encouraging.
"But the season start was hard again. I was sort of back to form, but I couldn't get any results. I had to be patient, and not doubt my abilities to come back. After all, you don't get back to top shape from scratch in three months."