Pierre Rolland has gained notice at the Tour de France as Thomas Voeckler's right hand man in the Pyrenees, but the French climber has also come out of the first block of mountain stages in 14th place overall. The 24-year-old is also in contention for the white jersey as he's the third best young rider only 1:25 down on Rigoberto Uran. This looks like the long-awaited coming of age of a rider who first gained attention in his second pro with Crédit Agricole in 2008.
"I came out of the Pyrenees with my head held right," Rolland told Cyclingnews at the start of stage 15 in Limoux. "Hopefully, this will last. We'll take it by day. For now, Thomas is the leader and I'm a domestique. He's got the age and the physical maturity to perform, while I'm coming up step by step."
Rolland was introduced as the next big French thing in 2008 when he finished 13th at Paris-Nice, 6th at the Circuit de la Sarthe and won the king of the mountains at the Dauphiné.
His long lasting breakaway at Liège-Bastogne-Liège also earned him a spot in the French national team at the Beijing Olympics, but his team manager at the time Roger Legeay refused to burn him out. Rolland only lined up at the Tour de France once he moved to Bbox Bouygues Telecom after the cessation of Crédit Agricole.
In 2009, he finished 21st in his Tour de France debut. He had higher ambitions in 2010, but he lost eight minutes in the first Alpine stage to Avoriaz and he finished in the grupetto with the sprinters 35 minutes after Sandy Casar the next day at Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne. His fourth place on stage 10 in Gap was a sign of his pride but it didn't console him for his failure on GC.
"The stage to Luz Ardiden was the watershed we all waited for," said Europcar's directeur sportif Dominique Arnould. "We knew that he was in good shape before the Tour," echoed Ismaël Mottier who is Europcar's second directeur sportif.
"After getting so much attention in 2008, he didn't know exactly in which role to position himself. This one at the service of Thomas in the Pyrenees came at the right time for him to finally express the talent we all knew he had."