Lilian Calmejane has seemingly lost the momentum of his remarkable 2017 campaign but the Total Direct Energie rider still feels he’s improving as a rider and is motivated by the prospect of riding a full WorldTour calendar in 2020.
The 26-year-old Frenchman burst onto the scene with a stage win at the 2016 Vuelta a España in his first season as a professional, before going on to strike seven times in 2017, one of them a stage of his debut Tour de France.
That strike rate, however, has slowed in the past couple of years, with just two apiece across 2018 and 2019, both at .1-category French races.
"In my career, everything took off quickly, from my first season with the pros. It’s difficult thereafter – the expectations are always much higher, but it’s difficult to always do better and better," Calmejane told Cyclingnews.
"I’ve still gained consistency. For the past three years I’ve won a minimum of two races. Not every rider wins races every year."
Calmejane’s season started out well enough, with victory at the Ardèche Classic, but he’d have to wait six months before raising his arms again at the Tour du Limousin. His spring saw an introduction to the cobbled Classics – he finished 40th, in the second main group at Flanders – before attention turned to the Tour.
However, he was a shadow of the rider that stormed through the Massif Central two years ago.
"I was pretty good in most races, apart from the Tour de France, and that’s the most important race for a French rider – for any rider – so it was very disappointing," Calmejane said.
"I wanted to replicate a certain preparation which has often worked in the past, but clearly not this time. There’s no exact science in cycling – sometimes things don’t work out. That’s how it is.
"It was a pretty poor Tour, and it was difficult to take, but I came out with more experience, and the rest of the year was pretty good. I won a race and had lots of top 10’s, so I showed I was able to bounce back. You always want better results but I think I’ve come out of the season having grown."
Calmejane finished his season at the Tour of Guangxi and contributed to the late scramble for rankings points among the Pro Continental teams, the best of which would be invited to every WorldTour race in 2020.
After a degree of confusion surrounding the scoring system, Total Direct Energie, who have an increased budget since Total came on board earlier this year, got their noses over the line.
"It’s great news. It gives us access to all the biggest races in the world, and that’s what we were after, so it’s great for the team," Calmejane said.
"From the start of the season the objective was to win as many races as possible, and points would come with that, then by the end of the season there was a bit more clarity as to the system and we knew we had to gain as many points wherever possible.
"We knew we had a bit of a lead over Wanty, but we knew Corendon-Circus were dangerous with Mathieu van der Poel. We extended our season until Guangxi and thankfully we managed it."
As such, despite the disappointments of 2019, there’s plenty of cause for optimism for Calmejane in 2020.
"I've forgotten about the Tour now. The season is over, and now it’s time to relax. 2020 will be even better."