By Jean-François Quénet in Vallon-Pont d'Arc
The Française des Jeux team has had to wait for their 13th participation to Paris-Nice before winning a stage, but Jérémy Roy's in Vallon-Pont d'Arc was a courageous one to watch. With just under seven kilometres to go, the 28-year-old rode away from his two breakaway companions to nab his first professional victory.
It came the day after he finished dead last in Saint-Étienne and the second day after his team manager's harsh speech following stage two, where the riders with the four leaves clover had a poor showing. Marc Madiot told them in Vichy, "I'm ashamed." They were ashamed too.
"Sometimes when bike riders sleep you have to wake them up," Madiot noted after Roy's win. "I'm satisfied because the guys have reacted with pride."
"I came to Paris-Nice with high ambitions and yesterday I was dropped," Roy commented. "I gave everything that was left in me to continue the adventure. Today I attacked in the first climb. And I persisted. [Thomas] Voeckler and [Tony] Martin came across and were about to drop me, but I hung on. I wasn't sensational, but I attacked by myself with seven kilometres to go. I had cramps, but it was worth suffering. This is my first win. It's a big dream come true. It's fabulous. It's also a huge relief after all the sacrifices I've endured."
Roy was the first cyclist to adhere to the "athletes for transparency" program. Standing firm against doping, he put his blood analysis results online way before the biological passport was implemented. After the Operación Puerto, he almost quit cycling. He thought the sport he took up following his father who was a local cyclist in Tours would never get rid of the doping culture. "But cycling is in my blood, I suppose, that's why I'm still here," he said.
He completed his studies in engineering over the course of the first five years of his pro career. "His career is just beginning," Madiot acknowledged.
"I don't see myself as a great champion," Roy explained in Vallon-Pont d'Arc. "I'm not going to win the Tour de France. I like going for breakaways. I'm not a great sprinter and I'm not a great climber, but I love long raids. I've thought of my second place behind Sylvain Chavanel last year during the Tour de France. I didn't want to finish second again. I didn't have great legs. I was cramping. I had to be smart to win. I had lost the habit to put my hands up in the air, that's a fantastic feeling!"
Madiot reckoned Roy has "a great mental strength". "He's able to find energy deeply inside himself. It was his destiny to get such a win. In our team, we have always been patient. That's an advantage for the young riders."
Also see Cyclingnews' full coverage of Paris-Nice stage five.