By Anthony Tan in Les Essarts
When Cofidis' Matt White rolled down the start ramp in Fromentine on Saturday, the Tour de France finally began for him after years of bad luck. "Yeah mate, it's just a relief to get the ball rolling," he said to Cyclingnews before the start of the second stage in Challans.
In 2004, he was all set to take part in his first Tour, but Lady Luck wasn't shining on the Sydneysider, and a silly crash saw him exit the race with a broken collarbone just hours before the prologue. This year, 'Whitey' made it to the start house, finished the time trial and made it through a hectic first road stage from Challans to Les Essarts today.
However, the 31 year-old isn't looking at simply finishing his first Grand Boucle: "I didn't come here to finish - I came here to do something," he said. "I've been racing for a long time, and sure, it's the only event I haven't done, but I've done two Olympics, four Vueltas, three Giros, three Commonwealth Games... I'm not a neo-pro, mate!"
Neo-pro he certainly isn't - 2005 marks his 10th year as a professional - and while he's already completed the entire Giro d'Italia this year, White said he's feeling well recovered for his inaugural lap around France.
"Five weeks is plenty of time to recover. I did the teams time trial in Holland two weeks ago, but I think it's going to take me one or two days to settle into that rhythm," he said. "I haven't done too much stuff behind the motorbike or anything like that, but mate, it's a three-week Tour, and after the teams time trial [Stage 4], I think I'll be doing nicely."
Someone that's already doing very nicely is the maillot jaune of Dave Zabriskie. White said the American got a bit of help with the less breezy conditions at the start of the opening stage time trial, versus later that afternoon when all the GC favourites rode, but also admitted his performance didn't come as a shock. "Not a surprise for me," he said.
"I don't think many people including Dave would have thought he'd beat Armstrong, but mate, the guy won a time trial stage of the Giro, came second in the other [time trial] stage, came fourth in the world championships - he's a time trial specialist. He had a bit of help from the wind, but that's smart planning to put him off early."
Speaking of planning, is Whitey planning on pulling out any crazy 'cycling' accessories at Le Tour, such as the outrageous shades he wore on the rest day of this year's Giro d'Italia?
"I've got a few surprises to pull out, but it's a bit early for that... " he said with a grin.