By Jean-François Quénet in Annemasse
French cyclists are generally known for their humble ambitions. They are often happy with a small result as long as it keeps them alive in the pro peloton, but Pierre Rolland of Crédit Agricole seems to be made of a different wood. He was seen on the attack several times during Paris-Nice. He was the most aggressive rider of Liège-Bastogne-Liège but still he wasn't happy with himself as he went into the Dauphiné with no win under his belt. He claimed two wins last year as a rookie with a stage in the Tour of Gabon and another one in the Tour du Limousin.
At the Dauphiné, Rolland was designated to do the work of a domestique by his directeur sportif Serge Beucherie. It was he who was alongside Christophe Le Mével doing the enormous amount of riding in the front of the peloton during the first two stages in order to take their team captain Thor Hushovd home in yellow. Then on stage four, it was Le Mével and Rolland who were among the 16 members of the decisive breakaway on the way to Annemasse.
Le Mével is looking for a Tour de France start, while Rolland already knows that at the age of 21, he'll have to wait for at least another year before taking part in the world's biggest race. Rolland came second on the stage, and expressed his feelings as he crossed the lines. He showed his wrist and hammered his handlebar. He could have been happy with his ride and proud of what he did, but he wasn't. "It's a big disappointment for me," he commented. "When Cyril Dessel caught me, it was an uphill false flat with head wind, there was 200 meters of climbing too much for me today. I ride my bike to win races. Finishing second isn't what I look for." Rolland might well be France's next big thing in cycling.