Just hearing the inflections in his voice, it’s obvious that Rein Taaramäe has seriously changed as a professional bike rider. For the first time since he turned pro in 2008, Cofidis’ young leader has told Cyclingnews that he’s truly motivated for the Ardennes classics and will race all of them for the first time.
Now 24, Taaramäe was until now trained for stages races, and he took fourth in Paris-Nice and third in the Critérium International earlier this year. “But I would like to do a top 10 in the Ardennes”, he told Cyclingnews.
He insists that he feels no-pressure before the classics, as he only decided last February to race them, dropping the Volta a Catalunya from his schedule, where he went third last year.
However Taaramäe has very little experience in the Ardennes. He rode his sole Flèche Wallonne in 2009 and finished 115th because he wanted to save energy before the Tour of Romandy. Last year he took part in Liège-Bastogne-Liège but he pulled-out, exhausted after his team had been stuck in Turkey the days before due of the Icelandic volcano. He’s never competed in the Amstel Gold Race.
Various sources, including Taaramäe himself, say his new ambitions mainly come from the arrival of directeur sportif Didier Rous to Cofidis in January. The Frenchman, second in the 1996 Flèche Wallonne behind Lance Armstrong, has urged Taaramäe to have more self-confidence.
“Rein can win Liège one day and do a top 10 this year”, Rous told Cyclingnews.
“He has got an extraordinary punch, that I honestly see equivalent to that one of Schleck’s brothers, without overrating him. He just needs to have more self-confidence.”
Since his pro debut Taaramäe had frustrated his team bosses because of his apparent nonchalance and his single focus on the Tour de France – a race he left n stage 13 last year, due of a tendonitis. The Cofidis appeared resistant to diet or training advice and barely accepted to modify his habits.
Rous, who was an aggressive rider in his career, added that he is a fan of Taaramäe’s style. “There are so many followers in the peloton that we’ve to praise his taste for action! Certainly he needs to find the right path. As a directeur sportif of Bbox-Bouygues Telecom I was happy to see Rein accelerating everywhere because I was thinking we were losing a serious contender for the big battle. This year I want to see him attacking with a high efficiency. Rein can stay with the other favourites and be part of the final fight. In that case his attacks will make a huge difference.”
Rous recalls one Taaramäe’s feat in stage 5 of Paris-Nice. The “Estonian Fox” crashed at the bottom of the Col de Mure, came back to the front and launched an attack. He took ninth, ten seconds behind Andreas Klöden. “That’s both the evidence he’s an enormous potential and he is right to be aggressive”, Rous said.