ProTeams made for European style of racing, says Europcar rider
Pierre Rolland may not have been able to deliver his Europcar squad the same level of success in the mountains at Tour de Langkawi as did neo-pro Bryan Coquard, who won two sprint stages, but the 2011 Tour de France best young rider is leaving the 10-day race content with his showing.
Rolland had hoped to deliver a better result than 20th overall in the Malaysian race but was not making excuses for losing time throughout on a number of key stages. He was plainly not good enough, explained the 26-year-old. Being unable to match the climbing dominance of race winner Julián Arredondo was of no concern to Rolland, whose season goals lie in July at the Tour de France.
"I'm satisified with the race, with how it went," Rolland told Cyclingnews. "Compared to my condition in February it's much better now. In the hills of Cameron and Genting some riders were simply stronger than me.
"The truth of February is not the truth of the following month so I'm not worried. But honestly, I was hoping for a better result."
Having raced in Langkawi in 2011 Rolland noticed a definite change in the style of racing, with the addition of five ProTeams and increased numbers of Professional Continental squads making for a more controlled and "European style" of race. It remains one he feels suits his preparation for the Tour. However, he added, the early inclusion Cameron and Genting Highlands did little to keep the race exciting.
"The number of ProTeams has definitely changed the way it's raced," he told Cyclingnews. "It was a European style of racing this year compared to two years ago when I first did it. It was a bit like the WorldTour except for one stage that was over 200km [Stage 6]. That was a real Tour of Malaysia with a lot of attacks, the war from kilometre zero until the end.
"I have noticed the same thing in Gabon [where I started my season] with more ProTour teams like Lotto and also MTN - Qhubeka racing, it's been more controlled but that also means a less hard race."
"It's always the organiser deciding about the course and the riders just have to comply. Personally, I would prefer the hills in the last two or three days of the race to keep the suspense higher. But the format of a 10-day is fine. The good thing is the mix of long and short stages. The best of it is that we always reach the hotel early enough to recover."
Rolland had already completed a busy start to the year before arriving at Langkawi. Now, with 17 days of racing which included the seven-day Tropicale Amissa Bongo, Etoile de Bessèges and Tour Méditerranéen the seemingly laid-back Frenchman reflected on his Malaysian performances while focussing his progression ahead of the Grand Départ.
"It's a really good program for February. In 2011 I came here and got about the same overall classification but it was a different race. There wasn't one climber above the others like the Colombian here this time. When I finished Genting I said 'if I happen to get the same result at the Tour de France as two years ago after delivering this result at Genting then it's fine with me'."