The veteran Frenchman appeared on the brink of retirement last summer after a frustrating outing at the Tour, but a successful late-season run at the Tour de l’Ain and the Vuelta restored his morale to such an extent that he is open to extending his career beyond the end of 2012.
“The Tour isn’t one of my goals. I’ve informed the team that it doesn’t suit me anymore,” Moncoutié told rmc.fr. “I prefer to leave my place on the team to young riders. I’ve ridden the Grande Boucle ten times and I think I should turn the page.”
Cofidis are still waiting to hear if they have secured one of the wildcard invitations to this year’s Tour. The team failed to make a significant impact in 2011, with Moncoutié perhaps their most prominent rider, in spite of his own disillusionment.
“In normal circumstances, I won’t be at the start,” he said. “I do know that it’s important for the Cofidis team, and if they needed me to cover for the absence of a sick, injured or out of form rider, I could possibly come. But if I can give it a miss, I’ll give it a miss.”
The closest Moncoutié came to success at the 2011 Tour was on stage 13 to Lourdes, when he was ultimately powerless to stop Thor Hushovd from thundering to the win. After the stage, Moncoutié was criticised in some quarters of the French press for supposedly aiding Hushovd’s pursuit of lone leader Jeremy Roy (FDJ) after the descent of the Aubisque. He admitted that the affair had left something of a bitter taste.
“I found it hard to understand that polemic. I spoke about it with Jérémy Roy too, and he didn’t understand either,” Moncoutié said. “I didn’t understand the criticism. It must be because on the Tour de France, the smallest thing is multiplied by ten. People always need to find a polemic. That’s what I don’t like about the Tour and this story didn’t make me like it any more.”
Instead, Moncoutié’s priority will be the Vuelta, where he has enjoyed repeated success in the tail end of his career. “I’ve ridden it four times, and I’ve won four climber’s jerseys and four stages,” he explained. “I really prefer the Vuelta to the Tour. It’s easier in terms of pressure, and harder in terms of terrain. The Tour has a week of flat where I waste a lot of strength. In the Vuelta, there are mountains straight away and that suits me better.”
37 in April, Moncoutié will not make a decision on retirement until the end of the season. “I still love the bike and my desire to win is still there. As long as I enjoy it and the legs are there, I’ll keep going,” he said. “I will stop one day. Maybe at the end of the season, I don’t know yet.”