Pulling on the polka-dot jersey as leader in the King of the Mountains classification at the Tour de France at the end of Stage 2 was a proud moment for Pierre Rolland but the Europcar rider was quick to thwart the idea he would attempt to defend his position in such an early part of the three-week race. However, arriving at the start of Stage 3 - the final day of racing on the island of Corsica – suggested Rolland had changed his tune. Resplendent in red dots he donned jersey, bib shorts, helmet, gloves and bike as best climber in the three-week race.
With a breakaway established early in the stage that started in Ajaccio containing Europcar teammate Cyril Gautier, Rolland’s lead could be protected. That was until Orica GreenEdge’s Simon Clarke begun to collect points along the 145.5km stage that included four categorised climbs. The final Cat.2, the Col de Marsolino would come with just over 10km to go and when the solo Clarke was within striking distance from the bunch, Europcar made its move.
Davide Malacarne was charged with setting up the move for his teammate and Rolland promptly overtook the tiring Clarke and successfully mopped up the maximum points. The Frenchman’s lead in the classification was all but secured and he will now continue to wear it at least until the start of Stage 5 with the team time trial offering no KoM points during the 25km combined team effort.
Rolland’s move was, according to said directeur sportif Andy Flicklinger all part of the day’s plan.
“The objective was to place one of our men in the break and for Pierre Rolland to defend his polka dot jersey if necessary," said Flicklinger on the team site.
Cresting the top of the final ascent with a small gap over the peloton was all Rolland needed to stay motivated to continue his effort. He was joined by three others including Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma – Quick-Step), Lars-Peter Nordhaug (Belkin) and Mikel Nieve (Euskaltel-Euskadi) but the quartet was captured by the charging peloton inside 3km remaining.
"David launched me really well," said Rolland. "Once I was out ahead I thought I'd give it a go. When I saw that it was Chavanel who was coming onto my wheel I told myself that the stage win was a possibility, but unfortunately the peloton came back on us extremely quickly."