During Saturday's stage 8 at the Tour de France, the first Vosges mountain stage, the Europcar team had an off-day. On Sunday, however, the French team bounced back with a splendid team performance in stage 9 from Gérardmer to Mulhouse.
On the second climb of the day, the Col de Wettstein, the team placed no less than five riders in the large breakaway group. Getting the stage victory proved impossible against the solo move of Tony Martin but team leaders Pierre Rolland and Cyril Gautier both managed to get into the top 15 overall.
"It's good for the moral but it hurts on the legs," Rolland said at the team bus in Mulhouse. "Yesterday, nobody on our team featured in the breakaway and that’s not often the case. Afterwards, I lost time so the ambiance in the hotel yesterday evening wasn't great. We turned it around as quick as possible.
"As team leader, it was up to me to tell the guys to go for it. We attacked right from the start and now we're back in the game. Having five guys in the breakaway shows that we're a strong collective. The teammates showed a lot of confidence, so hats off to them," Rolland said after crossing the line in the group that sprinted for second place, nearly five minutes ahead of the peloton.
"We didn't get a bigger gap but the other teams didn't want to see me move up too much. In the end, with Cyril, we worked hard for me, and Tony [Gallopin, Lotto-Belisol]. All day long, I motivated him but he was alone. I'm very happy he took the jersey. If you look at the bigger picture we kind of worked for him as well. I'm please he takes the maillot jaune. A Frenchman in yellow on Bastille Day is great. Grand Chapeau to Tony Martin who was enormous."
Teammate Cyril Gautier was a delighted man, after helping Rolland during the stage. "This is Europcar-style. It's what we like. We love to ride as a team. What we lost early on, we managed to make up partly today. We were with the five of us. We were not helped by the others to get back on Tony Martin."
Rolland is now placed eighth overall at 4:07 from new race leader, Gallopin. He's got one second bonus on Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) who dropped a few spots on Sunday. Cyril Gautier moved up to 14th overall at 4:44. While most other GC riders enjoyed a relatively easy day in the peloton, the Europcar leaders will have a hard time to recover in time for Monday's tough stage 10 that finishes on top of La Planche des Belles Filles.