By Jean-François Quénet in Angers
Remember this name: Rein Taaramae. This is Estonia's future cycling star coming from the country left without a big champion since Tour de France former yellow jersey Jaan Kirsipuu retired from professional racing a little more than one year ago.
Taaramae, who will turn 21 at the end of this month, joined race leader Thomas Voeckler and stage winner Christian Vande Velde on stage for the ceremony following the time trial of the Circuit de la Sarthe in Angers. He scored the seventh best time and became the best young rider on eighth position on GC.
That result confirms his excellent debuts as a professional with Cofidis after being the rising star for two years in French amateur cycling under the colours of RO Saint-Amand-Montrond. Taaramae secured his pro contract one year in advance, so was he able to spend most of last season helping his team-mates and compatriots Kalle Kriit and Tanel Kangert to victories. Their partnership worked, as his friends joined Mitsubishi-Jartazi and Ag2r-La Mondiale respectively.
Being the leader of this new fabulous generation of Estonian riders, Taaramae proved to be competitive at the highest level as soon as in March when he finished 11th on GC at the Tour of Santarem in Portugal. Time trial is his strength, which he already proved last year when he became vice-European champion in the U23 category. In Santarem, he scored the sixth best time on a 21.5km course only 11 seconds behind Andreas Klöden and 16 seconds behind vice-world champion Laszlo Bodrogi, who came third and second respectively behind an amazing Maurizio Biondo from Flaminia.
Taaramae also joined a mixed team with a New Zealander, a Moldavian, a Tunisian and a South African for the GP Portugal, the first round of the UCI Nations Cup at the end of March. The Estonian won two of the three stages and finished third overall, proving once again that he's one of the world's best cyclists of his age.
"I'm quite happy with my condition but I'm not at my best yet", Taaramae said after his ride at the Circuit de la Sarthe. "But all of my first pro season is scheduled for being at my best at the Tour de Romandie. This is the race where I really want to go well this year. It'll be like the Tour de France for me." Cofidis is doing well with some of their established riders so far this season, especially Sylvain Chavanel, but the French team is also preparing the future with this exceptional young Estonian.