Despite joining compatriot Maxime Bouet of Ag2r-La Mondiale in yesterday's day-long breakaway to Gap, Bbox Bouygues Telecom rider Pierre Rolland couldn't make it a French win on Bastille Day.
"During the whole stage, I thought it could be my day," Rolland said as soon as he got off his bike. "I dreamt. I believed I could win the stage but the last climb was too difficult for me." None of the French riders were able to follow the attack of eventual stage winner Sergio Paulinho and runner up Vasil Kiryienka.
Rolland finished fourth and was best young rider for the stage but that's still far away from his initial ambitions at the beginning of the Tour de France.
"Yesterday I finished very far down and I was extremely disappointed," he continued. Rolland completed the previous day's Alpine stage after the rest day in 167th position, almost 35 minutes behind Française des Jeux's Sandy Casar.
This is definitely not what was expected from the rider promoted to the media and potential sponsors by team manager Jean-René Bernaudeau as someone who would finish in the top 10 of the Tour de France overall. Rolland's rising promise two years ago with Crédit Agricole led to a significant raise in his profile amongst the French cycling fraternity.
He has the pride to match that 'champion' status, too, which is why he went on the attack the day after losing so much time. "I came to the Tour to ride the general classification," he explained. "I've cracked. But I hope I'll make myself seen again before the end of the Tour de France.
"Compared to last year when I rode it for the first time [when he finished 22nd overall - ed], it's a much harder race this year. It's much more demanding. Two days ago I was more tired than during the third week of the Tour last year.
"Fortunately, there's great enthusiasm from the crowd on the roadside and I heard the TV audiences are very good too, so it motivates us for going away again," he added.
The other Frenchman in the breakaway, Maxime Bouet, is another emerging rider who hasn't met expectations after riding better last year at his first attempt.
He went with Rolland because his Ag2r-La Mondiale team had to shine for regional reasons. "The stage started in Chambéry where we have the headquarters of the team," Bouet explained. "I've taken part in this breakaway to please my fan club, my family, my fiancé and also to pay tribute to my mum who passed away earlier this year."