Nicolas Vogondy has put health issues which nearly ended his 14-year professional career behind him as he won the first mountain stage of the Dauphiné.
"This is crazy," said Vogondy after crossing the finish line. "It's like a dream. I don't know what to say. Our Bbox Bouygues Telecom team is going well since the beginning of the season and it goes on here, it's fantastic. For us, the Dauphiné is already a success."
Vogondy's career nearly came to an end in December, 2009 when doctors detected a heart problem: cardiac arrhythmia. "I underwent tests to check the reason for the irregular rhythm of my heart," he said. "I did the 24-hour test to see if there was a risk of a heart attack. Only after two months was I allowed to get a license and race again.
"I respected the decision of the doctors of the French federation to put me on hold. I understand they want to take a minimum of risks. But I wouldn't have liked to put an end to my career this way.I had already signed a contract with Bouygues Telecom and I might not have been able to fulfill it."
Vogondy resumed training at the end of February and started racing at the Route Adélie at the beginning of April. It took him a month to find the rhythm of pro races again. He got some advice from former French football coach of Paris SG, Denis Troch, who told him: "As you start later than other riders, you'll have more motivation when they get a bit tired."
Vogondy stated that Bbox Bouygues Telecom didn't put any pressure for his comeback. "They told me: come back when you're ready."
The 32-year-old Frenchman started the Dauphiné well. After the individual time trial, he held 11th position on general classification. "But these were the easiest stages of the Dauphiné in terms of terrain," he said.
Vogondy appeared to be at ease today in the first mountains as well. "There was good work from my teammate Laurent Lefèvre at the bottom of the climb," he said. "With 2km to go, our directeur sportif told us - Pierre Rolland and I who were in the leading group - to try and attack because we had nothing to lose. I was happy to do it because at least I knew I would have been seen on TV. My wife is expecting a baby in October or November.
"When I looked behind, the other riders were watching each other. Then I saw someone coming across. I thought it was Romain Sicard and I remembered the stage in the 2008 Tour de France when I got caught with 40 metres to go in Châteauroux, so I was scared that the same thing would happen again."
Now Vogondy can look forward to the Tour de France six months after his racing career was in serious jeopardy.