By Jean-François Quénet in La Toussuire
Floyd Landis might have looked isolated while wearing the yellow jersey, but there were a few former Phonak riders doing very well in stage 16. Tadej Valjavec and Oscar Pereiro were with the Swiss outfit last year; however, fewer people remember that Cyril Dessel also rode for Phonak. Two years ago, he wasn't picked for the Tour de France at the last minute after directeur sportif Alvaro Piño imposed the presence of Santiago Perez, and team manager Urs Freuler decided to select Martin Elmiger just for being Swiss.
That's why Dessel chose to leave Phonak and join AG2R, for which he couldn't ride the 2005 Tour de France either, due to an appendix operation. Now he's finally living his dream, running fourth overall in the Alps. "I never expected that," Dessel explained. "On the Glandon, we were still five riders from AG2R with Sylvain Calzati riding a good tempo that has helped us a lot. We're confident, that's why we don't make too many mistakes."
Directeur sportif Vincent Lavenu was full of praise for Christophe Moreau, who was initially the team captain. "He used his experience at the service of Cyril," Lavenu said. "He did it instinctively. I'm proud of my team. I'm proud of having chosen the right riders. French cycling needed what we're doing now. But today isn't the end of the surprises at the Tour."
Dessel felt sorry for Landis. "The main factor today was the heat," he said. "I saw Floyd throwing water at himself regularly. Sometimes it's a sign that a rider isn't going well. That was my impression of him in the last climb. A hunger flat can occur to anyone. That's why I feel I am currently far away from a final podium in Paris. There is another hard mountain stage and a time trial. We're not there yet." But what is likely is that Phonak would probably have loved to have Dessel still in their ranks for these Alpine stages…