RadioShack-Nissan rider takes podium spot in Oman
An impressive ride on the queen stage to Green Mountain was enough to propel Tony Gallopin (RadioShack-Nissan) onto the final overall podium at the Tour of Oman.
Better noted for his abilities on the flat, the Frenchman came home a surprising 5th on the summit finish, securing 3rd place overall and the white jersey of best young rider in the process. Ahead of Sunday's final stage, Gallopin told Cyclingnews that he had initially battled to limit his losses on the climb in order to bolster his squad's chances of winning the team classification.
"It was a nice surprise," Gallopin said in Al Khawd. "I was already happy to just to have done a few sprints here, and I was more concerned with helping Jakob Fuglsang yesterday and maybe then trying to be the third man for us on the climb for the team classification. I really didn't think I'd be in the top five on the stage."
As it turned out, Gallopin hauled himself over the line just 37 seconds down on stage winner Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) and in front of the likes of Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) and his teammates Fuglsang and Andy Schleck.
Gallopin explained that he had rarely had occasion to test himself so fully on a major climb over the course of his professional career before Saturday's stage.
"I often work for the team and then finish at my leisure on climbs like that, but yesterday I had the opportunity to test myself," he said. "I really don't have a lot of references at this level. I'd done well on a big mountain once before alright, at the Tour de l'Ain on the Grand Colombier"
Nibali began the attacking at the foot of Green Mountain, and once Gallopin realised that Fuglsang's overall ambitions were ebbing, he gave chase himself, battling with FDJ-BigMat pair Sandy Casar and Arnold Jeannesson all the way to the top.
"Jakob and I didn't discuss it, but when three or four riders started to go clear, I realised that we needed to go after them," he recalled. "When I saw that Jakob was a bit further behind again, it was up to me to keep going."
After spending the past two seasons in the colours of Cofidis, Gallopin is a new arrival at the RadioShack-Nissan squad, where his uncle Alain is part of the management team. A rider with long-term aspirations of making an impact in the classics, Gallopin is keen to observe life in the court of Fabian Cancellara at close quarters this spring.
"The priority is to learn from Fabian, and beyond that maybe have a go in some semi-classics or other races, if the opportunity arises," he said. "But the main thing is to be around Fabian as much as possible and learn as much from him as I can.
"Seeing as I'm young, I'm not going to be doing all the classics. That said, I hope to be there for the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix, and maybe Amstel, which I really like."
Later in the year, Gallopin hopes to return to Valkenburg for the world championships, although he expects a place in Laurent Jalabert's Olympic thinking will be more complicated.
"I know that for the Olympics, Laurent Jalabert wants riders who do the Tour de France and this year that's going to be hard for me on this team," Gallopin said. "So I'm probably looking more to the worlds in Valkenburg to be honest."
Winner of the Coupe de France in 2011, the 23-year-old is aware that racing and winning with the same consistency outside of his home country will be crucial to his future development.
"I won the Coupe de France last year, but my best win was the stage I won at the Tour of Luxembourg two years ago because the level was higher," Gallopin said. "That said, I think winning in France when you're young is a good step for what is to follow."
With Nacer Bouhanni, Arnaud Démare and Arnold Jeannesson also impressing on the Arabian Peninsula, allied to the performances of Thibaut Pinot and Pierre Rolland in 2011, French cycling seems set to enjoy something of a resurgence at international level in the coming years. "I think ours is a generation that doesn't have complexes about racing against foreign riders anymore," Gallopin said.