By Brecht Decaluwé in Montceau-les-Mines
The French crowd was cheering hard for their local heroes Cyril Dessel and Christophe Moreau during the stage 19 time trial. They had to battle to determine who would have the fame of becoming the first French rider in GC.
Dessel got it in the end, due in part to the fact that Moreau suffered a crash during his TT and wasn't able to take enough time out of his AG2R team-mate. "It [being first Frenchman] wasn't my objective at the start today, but it is very satisfying for me," he told Cyclingnews.
We then asked Dessel how he enjoyed his time trial, and with what kind of objective he had started: "I went flat out, that's for sure. I felt beaten for fifth place but I wanted to battle for place six. It was a hard and long time trial, covering 57 kilometres."
On Thursday, he crashed on the descent of the Col du Joux-Plane. How did that affect him? "Yesterday, my left leg was still hurting after my fall. So I was a bit worried about this time trial. But this morning, when I did the reconnaissance, I was feeling better. I was a bit more confident and I tried to remain focused on doing well. I had nothing to lose so I rode just like I did in the mountains when I was wearing the yellow jersey."
It was a bit of a surprise that Dessel could maintain his top-10 spot. We asked him how much he found himself longing for Paris during the previous stages: "It's true that during the last week, the Eiffel Tower came into mind. I had three magnificent weeks and I think more people know me now."
Arriving at the Champs Elysées as the first French rider in GC will be something special: "I have already enjoyed the laps of honour in Paris once before," he said. "In 2002 I struggled hard for three weeks to arrive at the Champs Elysées. Getting there was really great. I think it's going to be even better this year, with my seventh place under my belt," he stated, looking forward to tomorrow's final stage.