Pierre Rolland shook off any leftover fatigue from the Giro d'Italia, and just three weeks after his triumph in Canazei, the Cannondale-Drapac rider was at it again, soaring to a summit stage win at Gavarnie-Gèdre on the queen stage of the Route du Sud.
The Frenchman had lost almost six minutes on the opening stage, and finished next to last on stage 2, another 5:36 behind the stage winner Elia Viviani, but when the road tilted upward over the Col du Tourmalet, Rolland found his legs and rode away from all of his breakaway companions except Gianni Moscon (Sky).
When BMC's Silvan Dillier joined them on the final climb, Rolland saw his opportunity, and attacked with 4km to go and soloed to the stage win.
"We never had a big advantage because there was Silvan Dillier from BMC, who was only 20 seconds back to the GC," Rolland said. "We approached the last climb with little advantage, but I just told myself that I had not done it all for nothing so I'm going as fast as possible.”
Rolland was part of a large breakaway that escaped even before the day's first climb of the Col du Tourmalet, the nearly 25km long category 1 ascent that serves as a Tour de France gauge of fitness. As their lead began to dwindle, Rolland attacked and drew out Moscon and Nicolas Edet (Cofidis), but the latter could not hang onto the pace and dropped back.
Moscon and Rolland fought on the descent and the next climb, the category 2 Gaberisse, to fend off the chase from Dillier, but he finally made contact on the final category 1 climb, just before Rolland's final, successful surge.
"At first I did not feel especially strong, but with this strong heat one should not pay attention to the sensations which sometimes feel very different. The victory in the Giro freed me of the weight of no longer finding the way to victory. I am happy with how I managed the Giro and heading into the Tour de France."
The victory is further evidence of the renaissance of the former Alpe d'Huez stage winner and best young rider at the Tour de France, and team owner and Rolland's coach Jonathan Vaughters was pleased to see his rider reaping the benefits of his diligent training.
"It's so rewarding to be able to see him get these results this season because I know exactly how hard he works for them," Vaughters said. "Last week alone he put in 28 hours of solid training. Keep in mind that's between the Giro and the Tour. He's an incredibly hard worker and a very good guy. I'm so happy for him."