After a year of doubts and struggling, Cyril Dessel has come back on the front line with stage wins in three consecutive races: the Four Days of Dunkirk, the Tour of Catalunya and the Dauphiné Libéré. Cyclingnews' Jean-François Quénet spoke with the French hero of the 2006 Tour de France in the Alps.
The Tour de France can have both sides for a bike rider. Nobody knows that as well as Cyril Dessel. In 2006, he was just a solid French rider who lined up in the world's biggest race for the second time only at the age of 32 but he found glory in the Pyrénées as he came in second to Juan Miguel Mercado in Pau but wore the yellow jersey for one day. He kept going well in the mountains after that and finished sixth overall and best French rider. One year later, he hadn't yet recovered from toxoplasmosis, but he started the Tour and was forced to quit on stage 15.
"When I pulled out, I was in a bad state of shape," he recalled in the Dauphiné Libéré at the start of the race organized by the French daily paper from the Rhône-Alpes region. "I went back home and I was like a vegetable. I knew from the beginning that I would have been hopeless, I was hardly able to just go back to the service car and collect drink bottles, but my team had thought that my presence at the Tour would still have produced some media exposure."
Expectations were high after his ride in 2006, but in 2007, the disillusion of the French fans was just as high. Starting the Tour was a big mistake, he now realizes, and that is why he gave strong advice to Romain Feillu, who suffered the same disease at the beginning of 2008: "Take at least two months off without riding your bike at all."
"Had I rested properly, I could have done a good end of 2007 season and a good start of 2008," Dessel reckons. "It was my plan to go well at Paris-Nice and other races at this time of the year, but I was still in the process of rebuilding myself as a rider. Mentally it had been hard to come back after the disease and the bad results. I had a lot of doubts about myself."