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Pierre Rolland (Europcar) in the group of favorites
Europcar rider vows to improve time trialling skills
The 2012 Tour de France has again been a great success for French team Europcar. With three stage victories, the polka dot jersey for Thomas Voeckler and Pierre Rolland's eighth overall placing, team manager Jean-René Bernaudeau was a happy man in Paris on Sunday. Especially since Voeckler's participation in the event had almost been compromised due to knee problems, and Rolland having been unsure of repeating his 2011 general classification feats because of the increased amount of time trial kilometres at this year's event.
But Rolland proved a point at the Chartres time trial on Saturday. "A lot of people said that I would lose several placings in this time trial, dropping from eighth to 11th or 12th. But I stood my ground. I'm happy and proud of my performance. I lost a lot of time in comparison to the winner [6:14 minutes] but I've maintained my place in view of those who are around me in the classification," he said in the finish.
Rolland's greatest threat was ninth-placed Janez Brajkovic (Astana), but the Frenchman was able to hold him off, even if it was only by seven seconds.
The confirmation of his Grand Tour talent meant a lot to the 28-year-old, who's felt the pressure of the French public and media following his 2011 success of taking the Tour's best young rider jersey and winning a mythical mountain stage in the Alps, as well as getting his first top-10 placing. "At the start of the Tour, some people wrote me off considering that there are 100 kilometres of time trialling. But I've proved that I can be counted on. When I think of all my bad luck with the crash in Metz that could have seen me quit the Tour. My injuries really handicapped me after that - it hurt a lot to go on, but it was worth it."
Admitting that the race against the clock is far from being his specialty, the lean climber nevertheless vowed to work on the discipline. "The chrono is clearly not my thing, but I will do everything I can to improve myself. I know it's far too important in view of the general classification," continued Rolland, who hopes that his best years as overall Tour de France contender are still to come.
"My success last year liberated what I've got in me. This year, I've gained further confidence and I think I come out of this Tour on yet a higher level," he concluded.