Romain Feillu has started the 2011 season with a seventh and a fourth place at the first two stages of the Santos Tour Down Under. By doing so, he has confirmed the predictions of race director Mike Turtur, who had named the Frenchman when he listed the top sprinters lining up in South Australia this week.
“I feel that my condition is pretty good but on both occasions I could have delivered a better result as I got caught in the wind and couldn’t move up as much as I wanted,” Feillu told Cyclingnews.
It’s the Frenchman’s second visit to Australia in a matter of months, as he came tenth at the world championships in Geelong in October.
“I became a father on November 26, so I’ve felt some fatigue and I probably haven’t trained exactly the same as in previous years,” he said. “But I’ve had a good training camp in Benidorm, Spain, and I’ve come to the first race with 3500 kilometres of cycling. The Australian sprinters have a bit more rhythm than us. To beat them here might have required hard sessions behind a scooter but I enjoy racing here because the crowd is friendly with everyone. People aren’t chauvinist like in France. They like all the athletes.”
Feillu owes his presence in Australia to the promotion of his team Vacansoleil into the World Tour. He joined the Dutch outfit from the defunct Pro Continental team Agritubel after the 2009 season, during which he won the GP Fourmies after helping his brother Brice to win a mountain stage at the Tour de France. However, he ended up on a different programme in 2010 as Vacansoleil couldn’t secure a wildcard invitation to the Tour.
“I missed riding the Tour de France, although it’s not my best period of the year, usually,” Feillu said. “This year, I want to finish it for the first time and win a stage for the first time. I think stage 1 finishing on top the Mont des Alouettes suits me well and it’s very close to Cholet where I rode with the yellow jersey three years ago.
“My 2011 season will be divided into three parts: part 1 from the Tour Down Under to the GP Denain in April, part 2 from the Tour de Picardie to the Tour de France, and part 3 from either Châteauroux or GP Plouay to the Tour of Lombardy, where I want to have a go if I have the same condition as at the end of last year.”
The 26-year-old said he also expects his brother to chase him down if he makes a breakaway and Brice is working for a sprinter (Daniele Bennati or Wouter Weylandt) from his Leopard Trek team. Romain remained faithful to Vacansoleil while Brice prematurely ended his two-year contract to join the Schlecks in the Luxemburg cycling project.