By Jean-François Quénet in Valloire
Has France found a new Richard Virenque? It wasn't the first time that Rémy Di Gregorio put a polka dot jersey on in Valloire - he did so during the 2005 Tour de l'Avenir in his first year pro as well. But it was an interesting symbol in Dauphiné: a 21 year-old Frenchman who attacked at km 0 at the bottom of the Col Bayard, and who crossed in first position the top of four climbs including the legendary Col de la Croix-de-Fer. Di Gregorio's ride was reminiscent of his more famous countryman who was awarded best climber of the Tour de France seven times.
Just like Virenque, Di Gregorio hails from South of France, and he's similarly outspoken with a friendly character. After the stage, he received a phone call from Française des Jeux team manager Marc Madiot who told him he'd make his debut at the Tour de France for sure in London. He was on the long list for the team after placing third in the 17km uphill time trial behind Denis Menchov and Vladimir Karpets, beating the likes of Alexandre Vinokourov and Michael Rogers in the Tour of Catalunya last month.
Just like Virenque, Di Gregorio has his pride and he doesn't like losing. "I was disappointed at the Mont Ventoux, he explained. I was sick. I vomited at the bottom of the climb. So I wanted to do well in today's hilly stage. I was initially targeting the stage win, not the polka dot jersey but after being first at the top of Col Bayard, I decided to go for it in all the climbs. After producing all these efforts, it was logical that I was less fresh than the Astana rider [stage winner Maxim Iglinsky -ed.] who hadn't worked before because he was protecting Kashechkin's yellow jersey. It was fair enough."
We might hear a lot of Di Gregorio in July, especially when the Tour goes through his home town of Marseille on stage ten and eleven. This up and coming new climber will want to take the polka dot jersey in the Alps so he can parade it in front of his friends and family there.