Christophe Moreau's Tour ambitions

An interview with Christophe Moreau, June 25, 2007

Frenchman sees polka-dots

Christophe Moreau was much stronger when winning the Dauphiné Libéré this year than in 2001 when he did it for the first time with only a one-second advantage over Russia's Pavel Tonkov. For many years he has been France's main hope for a spot on the final podium of the Tour de France but now he'd be happy with shining as the king of the mountains, as Cyclingnews' Jean-François Quénet found out at the Dauphiné.

It has been ten years since any Frenchman finished on the final podium of the Tour de France – yes, the last one was Richard Virenque in 1997 and the recent revelations coming as additional information to the Festina affair have made clear that cycling in the mid-1990s didn't have much sense. No Frenchman has won the Tour since Bernard Hinault in 1985.

The Dauphiné could have suggested that Christophe Moreau is able to produce a good final result, especially in the post-Armstrong era without the likes of Jan Ullrich, Ivan Basso and Floyd Landis, all gone because of their connections with doping. However, Moreau is 36 years old and he's in his 13th season as a professional cyclist. He's not exactly the up and coming champion highly expected in France but he's definitely the best Tour de France rider in the country.

He was probably inspired by last year's story of Oscar Pereiro, who claimed the yellow jersey and finished second in Paris. "I'm not going to ride for GC anymore," he said last winter in a gathering of athletes from different sports in the Alps. "I'll lose half an hour on purpose and I'll go for a long ride away in a mountain stage, alone in front of the fans, that's the feeling I'd like to experience again before I conclude my career."

As every year, the Swiss resident skipped the early part of the season and started performing at the Volta a Catalunya, in May, where he came fourth. In a pre-Tour de France training camp in the Alps, he impressed his Ag2r teammates by how strong he went in the mountains. At the Dauphiné he hoped to win a stage and he didn't wait longer than two days. The way he rode to Saint-Etienne revealed a new Moreau. He dared to attack where nobody expected him to do so. He didn't mind having companions sitting on his wheel. He accepted the idea that José Antonio Redondo was only in the front with him in support to his Astana captains Alexander Vinokourov and Andrey Kashechkin.

"I'm generous in life, I'm generous on the bike", he stated. When he joined Ag2r Prévoyance one and half year ago, he invited all of his new teammates to a dinner in a restaurant. Moreau likes to be loved. "For 13 years now I've given a lot to the sport of cycling without necessarily becoming as popular as Laurent Jalabert or Richard Virenque," he told Le Dauphiné. "I like to hear my name on the roadside a lot. I enjoy being encouraged. It thrills me. I make people dream, I give emotions to the fans because I'm a Frenchman, so I'm prepared to take it seriously and profit from it. Cycling is a fabulous but difficult sport. When I hear my name in the climbs, I'm driven."

He was driven in the Mont Ventoux for sure. After winning in Saint-Etienne, he said, "Anything else would be bonus. ... Winning two stages including the Ventoux, plus GC and having such good legs for the whole week, I would have signed up for that before the Dauphiné," he added. "I think I'm at the peak of my career. It's pure happiness. I haven't always been regarded as a fine tactician. Above all, success in cycling is in the head, secondly it's in the legs."

However, the legs he had in the Alps during the Dauphiné might be helpful when time will come to climb La Colombière in stage 7 of the Tour de France on Bastille Day. It makes sense to bet on Moreau that day, the first in the mountains. "French media announce me as a candidate for the final podium of the Tour or even like a potential winner," he commented. "I actually thought my fourth place overall in 2000 was the best I could do. This year, I'd really like to get the polka dot jersey. It's a very popular one to wear. I want to experience great feelings in the mountains. Maybe I wasn't aggressive enough in the past.

"For the overall classification, I'll stay focused during the first week of the Tour," he continued. "I'll make my first first deductions in Tignes during the first rest day. From there on, I'll see if it's reasonable to target the podium or not. If I feel that I'm able to go for it, I'll do my best because a spot on the podium in Paris has always made me dream."

Moreau doesn't need distractions anymore. Aged 36, he has a stronger mental now than at the time of the Festina affair after which he has had many ups and downs. Emilie, who is now his wife was a hostess at the Tour de France, gave him the yellow jersey after the prologue in 2001. Now they have had their first child two months ago; a baby girl named Margaux. "Like the Château Margaux," says Christophe who has another passion with wine tasting.

"I started my cellar seven or eight years ago. Some friends started me and I love it." French fans would enjoy tasting a Château Moreau grand cru at the 2007 Tour de France.

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