Rollin to victory

An interview with Dominique Rollin, February 22, 2008

The Toyota-United Pro Cycling team hit the jackpot when they signed French-Canadian rider Dominique Rollin, nicknamed 'The Horse', who fell out of a contract when his team Kodak-Sierra Nevada folded at the end of 2007. Rollin proved he was ready to ride in the major leagues when he took third in the GC at the Tour of Missouri. He turned it up a notch in stage four of this year's Tour of California, initiating a break that stayed away for two hundred and four kilometers, to solo in for a stage victory. Rollin spoke with Cyclingnews' Kirsten Robbins about his drive to succeed inCalifornia.

"I knew I had it won when there was forty kilometres to go," said Rollin at the press conference shortly after the stage, regarding his nearly six-hour breakaway effort. "I looked around at the other riders and I knew I was the strongest in the break and then, with ten kilometres to go, I knew I had a forty-second lead and that they wouldn't catch me, so I started smiling."

The six-time national Canadian road champion from Boucherville, Quebec, pushed through epic wind and rain in an eleven-rider break he initiated. Then his competition pummeled when he broke way from them and soloed for twenty kilometres to the finish, holding off the chase behind that included 'big' George Hincapie and Ortuzar Camano.

Rollin admitted at the press conference that the wicked weather conditions suited his ability as an inspiring Classics rider, noting that the last time he remembered the weather being as bad he won that stage also. "I won stage two of the Tour de Beauce in 2005, where there were seventy kilometre per hour wind gusts and guys were blowing off the road," said Rollin. "Even today I was out there thinking, 'I can't stand this' and I was shivering and cold but I always seem to do well in that kind of bad weather. In fact, the worse it is the better I do. Today, when the wind came, I told it to 'keep coming because I can do this.'"

Rollin grew up as a soccer player in the summers and was a weekend skier in the winters, as a result of the harsh Canadian snowfalls. But cycling caught his attention after his older brother picked it up as a serious pastime. "My mom brought my brother to a bike race and soon after I started following him around, when I was ten" said Rollin, who started his racing career with the team Espoir Laval at the age of eleven. "There are country roads located five kilometres from my town, located on the south shore of Montreal."

With a considerable amount of success as a junior and an under 23 up-and-coming talent, Rollin took a leap and moved to the Champlain region in France to gain some experience on the European circuit. "France was difficult because of the travel for races," said Rollin, who trained under the guidance of team managers Guy Gallopin and Cyrille Guimard. "I liked the long one hundred and eighty kilometer classics and I was good at them, especially when the weather turned bad or there were some kickers, things that made the racing hard. I gained most of my experience from my team managers; different races at different levels, one weekend as an amateur and the next in the UCI events. I've seen a lot of different types of racing and different terrains and you can't avoid the cobbles."

Brian Walton, who is arguably the most renowned cyclist in Canadian history and three-time Olympian, coaches Rollin out of his Philadelphia based Cadence Performance Cycling Center. The eager learner attributes his increased performance curve to the hard work and communication between him and Walton. "Brian and I have been working really hard on making my time trial better and so to be able to stay away from a guy like George Hincapie and hold onto that lead after such a hard stage proves that I can be out there and do something.

"Brian has managed to get me at a certain level, so that even when I'm having a weakest day, the other riders in the peloton don't realize it," continued Rollin who spends most of his time training in Philadelphia working on his sprint, stamina and climbing ability to become an all around successful rider. "We trust each other."

Hit'n it big time

Rollin attributes his Canadian national championship win in 2006 as the confidence builder he needed to show him he could make it to the top level of bike racing on the American scene. But more than that, his third place in the Tour of Missouri showed his ability in races against the ProTour level. "Missouri was my biggest career highlight, being able to stand on the podium in a six day stage race at that level was big for me."

When Kodak-Sierra Nevada confirmed the team would dismantle, the offers for the Canadian came rolling in. According to Rollin it was not the offer by Toyota-United that attracted his attention but the opportunity the team could provide him. "It was an easy decision because I'd looked at what Toyota-United has been doing the last couple of years, what races they do and I knew I could keep learning from riders with experience like Henk Vogels and the new director Scott Moninger," Rollin stated. "I wanted to make sure I fit well with the team because it seemed like a strong sprinting team this year, but types of sprinters with different skills; Hilton and myself like to be aggressive and Ivan Dominguez is a good bunch sprinter who likes that kind of speed, so between the three of us we cover almost every aspect of the race in order to achieve a stage win."

The team's latest signing, director sportif Len Pettyjohn confirmed the extent of Rollin's talent based on his fitness test results from the team training camp held in Solvang earlier this month. "He's the epitome of what you want because he's got speed and power and he can't control himself," said Pettyjohn. "He is so eager and motivated to race his bike. A team loves to have a guy like him because he wants to race his bike all the time. He's got a great mentality and a great coach, Brian Walton. Walton keeps him on a leash because guys that are as dynamic as Dom have a hard time backing down."

As for his future, Rollin is looking forward to stretching his legs in races like the Tour de Georgia, the Philadelphia International and the Canadian national championships that will determine the selected team for the Olympic Games and the world championships.

"Also, the Tour of Missouri is a race that suits me with mostly flatter roads and a long hard time trial," said Rollin, who was caught and passed on the time trial in last year's event. "I'll be working on my time trial all summer just to make sure George Hincapie can't catch me again, like last time."

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