Sunday's stage two of the Tour de France, taking the peloton from Monaco to Brignoles, was dominated by a four-man breakaway before the inevitable bunch sprint. Cyril Dessel of AG2R La Mondiale was one of the escapees, together with Stef Clement (Rabobank), Jussi Veikkanen (Francaise des Jeux) and Stéphane Augé (Cofidis).
Dessel, who won a stage in the 2008 Tour and wore the yellow jersey in 2006, had a hard day out in the saddle, and not only because of blistering heat in the South of France. Together with his colleagues, he escaped the bunch early on, and then saw his ambitions melt like ice cream in the sun as the peloton charged to make way for the sprinters.
"I knew that it was going to be tight, as we were only four," Dessel told Cyclingnews. "Saxo Bank controlled the bunch from behind, so we didn't have much hope. The route was not easy, and it was very, very hot. But I still had fun, and the spectators cheered us on."
But the most important thing about his escape effort was that it gave him and his team a boost of confidence. The French squad has been struggling for results so far this season, and Dessel, the outfit's main hope at this Tour, has doubted even his own abilities.
Dessel crashed during the Tour of California and hurt his back. Even though neither the crash nor the injury was serious, the Frenchman suffered a crisis in confidence. Without any wins this season, Dessel believes that this breakaway could be the beginning of better days to come.
"It's true that I gained some confidence back, and I am in good physical shape," he said. "In the Dauphiné, things didn't turn out as I wanted, and I think I was a little tired. We had changed my racing schedule a bit, and I think that had some consequences. Now, I feel well, and catching the right break today was a good thing. For me, personally, but also for the team. Now, we will be able to continue this Tour feeling a little more confident."
Team manager Vincent Lavenu agreed: "A breakaway like that is always good for morale, even if it is not followed by a victory. For the team spirit and cohesion it's really important, and it will make us more confident. And as we don't have a sprinter capable to fight against Cavendish or the like, we have to find other solutions - and this means escaping."