By Hedwig Kröner in Cannes
Rabobank's Erik Dekker has found reason to be happy again after his unlucky start into Paris-Nice and a very annoying pain in the back, which hindered the rider's preparation for his first season goal since the off-season.
"I initially came to Paris-Nice to win the prologue, but then everything turned out differently," he told Cyclingnews in a café in Digne-les-Bains, sipping a warm café au lait while waiting to to sign in for stage six to Cannes. "But I'm still in the race, that's most important, and my form is very good so I'm very happy with that."
The Dutchman explained about the factors that turned his plans upside down. "I lost 15 or 20 seconds in the rain at the prologue; that was such bad luck, terrible," he sighed. "And I'm never going to get those again - I'm not the kind of climber that can gain time on this kind of parcours. At the moment, I'm tenth overall but I'm only a few seconds away from the fifth or sixth rider. It's still very close."
On the other hand, Dekker is more or less relieved from a back pain that he suffered from for two months. "Since last Wednesday, it's almost gone," he pointed out on the bright side. "I suffered for two months, it was a real problem: I couldn't pedal slowly - I could race hard, like time trials, sprints or climbing was okay, as long as there was tension on my back. But in the descents and when it's not going too fast I had a lot of problems, also in training. I was treated and finally the last treatment did the job. It was about time! Last Monday, on stage one, I really hurt in that last climb before the finish."
Finishing with the main favourites' group in Cannes today, the Rabo rider was able to put his announced goals for the day to practice: "No damage, that's my goal for this stage," he had said at the start. And as Cyclingnews crossed his way again on the waterfront of the famous French glamour city after the finish, Dekker was all smiles as he sat comfortably in the warm spring breeze on a sunlighted café terrace, about to have another one of those strong French coffees...