The Toyota-United Pro Cycling team hit the jackpot when they signed French-Canadian rider Dominique Rollin, nicknamed 'The Horse', who fell out of a contract when his team Kodak-Sierra Nevada folded at the end of 2007. Rollin proved he was ready to ride in the major leagues when he took third in the GC at the Tour of Missouri. He turned it up a notch in stage four of this year's Tour of California, initiating a break that stayed away for two hundred and four kilometres, to solo in for a stage victory. Rollin spoke with Cyclingnews' Kirsten Robbins about his drive to succeed in California.
"I knew I had it won when there was forty kilometres to go," said Rollin, regarding his nearly six-hour breakaway effort. "I looked around at the other riders and I knew I was the strongest in the break and then, with ten kilometers to go, I knew I had a forty-second lead and that they wouldn't catch me, so I started smiling."
The six-time national Canadian road champion from Boucherville, Quebec, pushed through epic wind and rain in an eleven-rider break he initiated. Then his competition pummeled when he broke away from them and soloed for twenty kilometres to the finish, holding off the chase behind that included 'big' George Hincapie and Ortuzar Camano.
Rollin admitted that the wicked weather conditions suited his ability as an inspiring Classics rider, noting that the last time he remembered the weather being as bad he won that stage also. "I won stage two of the Tour de Beauce in 2005, where there were seventy kilometre per hour wind gusts and guys were blowing off the road," said Rollin. "Even today I was out there thinking, 'I can't stand this' and I was shivering and cold but I always seem to do well in that kind of bad weather. In fact, the worse it is the better I do. Today, when the wind came I told it to 'keep coming because I can do this.'"
Rollin grew up as a soccer player in the summers and was a weekend skier in the winters, as a result of the harsh Canadian snowfalls. But cycling caught his attention after his older brother picked it up as a serious pastime. "My mom brought my brother to a bike race and soon after I started following him around, when I was ten" said Rollin, who started his racing career with the team Espoir Laval at the age of eleven. "There are country roads located five kilometres from my town, located on the south shore of Montreal."
With a considerable amount of success as a junior and an under 23 up-and-coming talent, Rollin took a leap and moved to the Champlain region in France to gain some experience on the European circuit. "France was difficult because of the travel for races," said Rollin, who trained under the guidance of team managers Guy Gallopin and Cyrille Guimard. "I liked the long one hundred and eighty kilometer classics and I was good at them, especially when the weather turned bad or there were some kickers, things that made the racing hard. I gained most of my experience from my team managers; different races at different levels, one weekend as an amateur and the next in the UCI events. I've seen a lot of different types of racing and different terrains and you can't avoid the cobbles."
The full feature is here.