At the 2011 Tour de France, Europcar riders Thomas Voeckler and Pierre Rolland captivated a whole nation, somewhat concealing an additional top performance of a Frenchman: AG2R La Mondiale's Jean-Christophe Péraud, who finished ninth overall. This year, the 35-year-old had good hopes of repeating his feat, but the preparation for his Olympic bid on the mountainbike got the allrounder slightly off track, forcing him to re-adapt his schedule during the last month.
Péraud, an Olympic MTB silver medallist in 2008 and French time trial champion in 2009, focused his season on what will be his third participation in an Olympic Games in London, as well as trying for a high GC placing in the Tour again. But the first half of the season was not promising, and the need to take action came when he finished 68th in the Critérium du Dauphiné despite his plans to enter the top 10 overall.
"That wasn't very glorious," Péraud admitted to L'Equipe. "After that, I was on a rescue mission."
AG2R's Tour de France co-leader - together with Nicholas Roche - explained that his race schedule this year may have been too full ahead of the Tour, overtraining him rather than building him up slowly. "I completely changed and re-adapted my preparation after the Dauphiné. The problem was that I hadn't taken any races off my calendar, instead I added some, designing a mountainbike programme. Perhaps I was just powered out at the Dauphiné. So I tried to recover and re-start on a healthy basis. I took some rest, which I needed, and then I put in more intensity that I used to."
The only race Péraud competed in during the last three weeks was the French Championships road race. "Three weeks is short but I have to try and reverse the situation," he added, still hoping to score another top 10 overall placing in three weeks time. But his 45th place in the Dauphiné time trial was not re-assuring, either. "That's one of my qualities that has started to weaken. But I haven't lost the experience I gained last year on the Tour. I hope I can take advantage of that to obtain a better result."
The other leader of his team, Roche, placed a solid tenth at the Tour de Suisse. Péraud may thus be forced to put himself at the Irishman's service. "Well, we are two leaders, that means we have only half the pressure each and twice as many chances to succeed," he figured.