Having crossed the line sixth in Lisieux, Tour de France rookie Arthur Vichot says he felt "reassured". FDJ's puncheur was very disappointed, indeed, to have struggled in the last two up-hill sprints, in the Mont des Alouettes (stage 1) and Mûr-de-Bretagne (stage 4).
"It took time to find my place in the Tour", the 22-year-old rider confided to Cyclingnews. "My start was bad actually. I'm a beginner in the race and I felt a bit lost among a dozen of teams who were working for a leader."
Because of this lack of confidence Vichot says he didn't anticipate the sprint in Lisieux well enough. "I didn't believe I could win. At one kilometre to go I was in 30th position. I certainly did a strong sprint but it could have been better if I would have trusted in myself. That's a mistake and I'm sorry, but, at least, now I feel like my Tour has really started and know what my abilities are at such a race."
Vichot now targets stage stage 8 between Aigurande and Super-Besse, with its perfect finish for puncheurs: a 3.5km climb to five per cent followed by a short downhill and an ultimate ascent of 1.5km to seven-point-six per cent.
From a physiological point of view, the FDJ rider says he feels pretty fresh. "I crashed early this year and broke my collarbone", he recalls. "I was disappointed to miss the Ardennes but perhaps that break was a good point for the Tour de France."
The first half of Vichot's season wasn't completely wasted, tough, as he won the Boucles du Sud Ardèche, his second professional success after one stage of Paris-Corrèze in 2010.
Beyond his palmarès, Vichot remains famous for the "Vichot-mania" which began in Australia last year, following the tradition of Tour Down Under's fans who get behind an unknown rider at random. In a few days the Frenchman gained 1,000 supporters through Facebook in an unexpected fan club. Since then many Australian keep an eye on him.
"They follow me notably through my official Facebook page, that's very nice" Vichot explained. "I really like their country and I hope to go back as soon as possible. In Australia people are cool. They love cycling because they appreciate the beauty of sport. They don't have the French depressed approach."