Janez Brajkovic realised what a big deal it was for him to win the Dauphiné when he looked at the record book before starting the final stage. A few hours later, he joined the five-time (or more) Tour de France winners Jacques Anquetil, Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault, Miguel Indurain and Lance Armstrong in adding the Dauphiné to his palmarès.
"I don't care if (Alberto) Contador (Astana) wasn't at his best form or if other top riders weren't here this week," Brajkovic said after the final stage in Sallanches. "This is the Dauphiné! To beat Contador is enough for me to be happy with my win. He's the best rider in the world and even when not at his best, he can win almost any race he takes part in, so I think I've done a good job."
Brajkovic didn't lose any seconds to the Spaniard after he took the yellow and blue leader's jersey in the 49km individual time trial that he won on Wednesday. Up l'Alpe d'Huez, he resisted all attacks from Contador, the captain of Astana.
"Alberto didn't try to take me on today," said Brajkovic of the final day of racing. "He didn't want to take any risks on the wet downhill, I suppose. But it wasn't an easy last stage. There were many attacks. Fortunately my team kept everything under control and AG2R was pulling really hard. They wanted to come across to the breakaway, but they didn't manage to do it. It was good for us. I felt good even if I don't like the kind of steep and short climb we faced."
"It's been a perfect week," the Slovenian said. "I'm very happy for myself and for my team. You might not have seen it, but sometimes I found the race very hard because I was suffering from allergies."
"For me to win a race, my form has to be perfect. The course and the weather have to suit me, but I can win races. Actually, I'm a lot more self-confident now. It doesn't mean I can be the best all the time, not by any means. I've been very constant this year. I've been in the top 10 of almost all the races I've taken part in. I didn't have the bad luck I've experienced in the past.
"I don't think I have made a big jump from being an average rider to a top rider. I've always been at a good level. In the past, I never took much rest. This year, I rested more and I've been coming to the races much fresher. That's one of the reasons why I've done well here."
"Little JB" is Brajkovic's nickname at RadioShack since he has the same initials as team manager Johan Bruyneel and the same pedalling style the Belgian had during his racing years.
He had no experience of racing in the French Alps before the Dauphiné. He was amazed by the view from l'Alpe d'Huez, where he woke up on Sunday morning. "I'll come back on vacation this summer," he said. "This is only a nine-hour drive from my home in Slovenia."
But he doesn't know yet if his summer holiday will be in July or August. "His participation to the Tour de France is 50-50," said RadioShack directeur sportif Alain Gallopin. "We'll decide at the end of the Tour de Suisse. For now, Jani needs to rest for one week, whether he does the Tour de France or not."
Eight of the nine riders who formed the Astana line up at the Tour de France last year are now with RadioShack. The ninth man is Contador. Chris Horner is a natural candidate to fill Contador's spot. Brajkovic's debut at the Grande Boucle at the age of 26 also depends on Haimar Zubeldia's recovery from the broken wrist he had at the Dauphiné earlier this week.