French climber Rémy Di Gregorio has often been very active at the head of the peloton during the opening stages of Paris-Nice, embracing a new role as a super domestique at the Astana team after spending six seasons as a pure climber at FDJ.
The skinny rider from Marseille was once considered the new Richard Virenque. But despite struggling to emerge, he is still ambitious and is still only 25.
“My job here at Paris-Nice is to help my team leaders”, Di Gregorio told Cyclingnews. “I must make sure that they don’t get trapped in a split. That’s why we race at the front in the finale.”
Astana has three team leaders for Paris-Nice with Alexandre Vinokourov, Roman Kreuziger and Robert Kiserlovski all potential overall winners.
So far, Di Gregorio’s is pleased he moved to Astana for the 2011 season.
“I’ve worked hard during the off-season. I’ve been very serious. I’ve asked myself some serious questions about what I want to achieve during my career. I haven’t looked for an easy way to emerge by choosing to join Astana. But I’ve realised that during my six years with FDJ, I never got the chance to work for some great team leaders. I’m going through the process that I should have experienced at the start of my career. I’m racing in their shadows now but with the aim of coming back in the spotlight later on. I haven’t lost my ambitions, just the opposite: I have the ambition to come back even stronger.”
Di Gregorio admits that he didn’t live up to expectations at FDJ. He hasn’t won a race since taking a stage at the 2006 Tour de l’Avenir.
“I didn’t go too badly last year”, he said in defence of his season. “I finished 21st at the Vuelta and ninth on the queen stage. I wanted to ride well for FDJ right to the end of my contract. They didn’t sack me. It was my choice to look for another adventure.”
FDJ team manager Marc Madiot didn’t beg Di Gregorio to stay for 2011 and didn’t select him for the 2009 Tour de France.
Di Gregorio knows he has to prove to team captain Alexandre Vinokourov that he deserves a place in the Astana Tour de France team. Working loyally for the team in Paris-Nice is the first step as he tries to re-launches his career.