Brice Feillu entered the 2014 Tour de France with the ambition of bettering his 23rd overall placing at the 2009 edition of the race in which he also won a stage. The 29-year-old arrived in Paris in 16th place overall along with all of his eight Bretagne - Séché Environnement teammates.
Compared to the two last editions of the Tour in which he was 91 in 2012 and 104 in 2013, Feillu was buoyed by his performance which he beliefs he can improve upon in 2015.
"I don't need to do much more to achieve a better position than sixteenth," Felliu told his team's website. "Minor adjustments and specific work for riding against the clock will help. I lost too much time on the penultimate day in Périgueux (4 to 6 minutes to his GC rivals).
Feillu added that his preparation for the Tour was as good as it could have been but emphasised minor adjustments to how he rode that race impacted on his final finishing position as did a hamstring injury.
"I arrived at the start as you probably should, yes," he added. "but there are little things that I need to reflect on.
"Our two mountain stages, the first in the Alps, the second in the Pyrenees, it was ok but we may have been wrong to be too much of a ‘bourrin'. What matters when the Tour arrives, it is to be fresh. We were good in this area but I think we can be even more pointed in our preparation. "
Feillu's best result in the mountains was ninth place when the Tour arrived in Mulhouse and explained that during a mid-June recce of the Port de Balès he strained his hamstring which affected his climbing abilities for the third week of the race.
"On the Port de Balès, we wanted to simulate a summit finish," he said. "We drove to the cote and the team took me there as though it was to be a summit finish … we all gave everything. I ended up as if I had to win at the top. Looking back, I think that that last half hour was perhaps too much.
"That session was maybe the start of a little thing that weakened me five weeks later, at the end of the Tour. But again, it brings us to the very fine tuning ...in the Tour, we are always on the razor's edge."
Feillu also added that the hamstring twinge mean he was forced to change his pedalling position twice which then created a problem with his vastus [a muscle in the thigh, .ed]
"Everything is connected. Yes, I was weak at the time but probably not the only one," he said, not making any excuses for a hard third week of the Tour.
With little chance to train on a time trial bike, Feillu added that simply practising more against the clock would be beneficial to his GC ambitions.
"There is little opportunity to ride the TT bike in training this season, and I did not have a second special bike available in the house to work on in training," he said. "Against the clock… I will fix that next year."
While French cycling was embracing placing Jean-Christophe Péraud (Ag2r) and Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) onto the podium, Feillu suggested this success meant his result was overshadowed.
"Yes, instantly," he said, when asked if he was proud of his GC position. "Because this is my best ranking in the Tour. But we quickly forget. And this year, it was only sixteenth but I was the fifth ranked French rider (behind Péraud, Pinot, Romain Bardet and Pierre Rolland).
Having joined the Breton team for 2014 on a one-year deal, Feillu is keen to extend his stay with the Pro-Continental team which also has his brother Romain on its books and it is a matter of 'when' and not 'if' he re-signs.
"I've know Manu Hubert since 2009 with my debut in his team then known as Agritubel," he said. "It was a relationship of trust, which enhances the professional esteem. And I feel good about this group, I get along with everyone and especially seeing how we worked in the Tour when we only knew for six months, I think we have a nice margin collective progression. Nothing is signed in early August but okay, Manu and I are in, for 2015."
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