Anthony Ravard from Ag2r-La Mondiale collected his second stage win at the Circuit de la Sarthe-Pays de la Loire in Sillé-le-Guillaume on Friday. Despite many breakaways and a very difficult finale with a steep and narrow climb where no team car was allowed to drive, the short sprinter who was hired by Vincent Lavenu from Agritubel proved himself to be worth a spot in the pro peloton.
"It's always useful to have a sprinter in a team," Ravard said. "I hope this win gives confidence to my team to work for me and to Lavenu to select me for the races I want to take part in. Some team managers think it's not worth hiring a sprinter because Mark Cavendish is the best in the world but there are many races without him and still ending with bunch gallops.
"At Paris-Nice, there's space for about three sprints. William Bonnet proved this year that it's possible for a French sprinter to win a stage. I don't think that I'm less fast than Bonnet. Today there was a 400 metre long steep climb and I managed to resist and be there for the final sprint. I almost did it yesterday as well."
Confidence is the key for riders like Ravard to win. He was led out by Christophe Riblon who just returned from Copenhagen where he collected the silver medal for the Madison race with compatriot Morgan Kneisky. "Christophe did a fantastic job for me today and the team was great," Ravard said. "When I passed the Colnago-CSF riders, I heard a crash behind me. I think I have improved both speed and endurance. I've worked a lot on my speed at home recently and I have completed the Tour of Flanders which makes me resistant all the way even where there are hard climbs in the last kilometres of a race."
Ravard promised he won't be satisfied with two stage wins at Circuit de la Sarthe-Pays de la Loire and he'll keep going with high ambitions. "On Sunday I'll do Paris-Roubaix and I hope to make the early break," said the former Bouygues Telecom and Agritubel rider. "After that I'm scheduled for the Giro d'Italia, which means I'm gonna do a Grand Tour for the first time. If I go well, I have a chance to ride the Tour de France as well. Cavendish can't win all the time..."