Christophe Riblon could have claimed leadership or at least a wild card after he took victory at the top of the Alpe d'Huez, at the Tour de France 2013. But the French climber from Ag2r-La Mondiale instead became a domestique for Jean-Christophe Péraud and Romain Bardet this year, giving up some of his personal ambitions and, instead, contributing to the best team prize on the Champs-Elysées.
"I know it's not legitimate to claim a special status on the Tour de France, but I can get this chance on a smaller race like the Tour of Poland," Riblon, 33, told Cyclingnews at Eastern Europe's WorldTour race, where he took a stage last year.
"I am a road captain at Ag2r-La Mondiale and I am happy with it," he added. "You perhaps can call me a 'domestique de luxe' as I am supposed to work for my leaders when the main bunch is reduced to 30 riders. This role is suitable with stage hunting, which is what I like the most."
Riblon didn't play this role as much as he wanted at the Tour de France, letting Luxembourg's Ben Gastauer being the third man of his team crossing the finish line and secure the team's ranking. "I am quite disappointed with my Tour," Riblon said, although he gave a much appreciated hand to some stages.
The veteran took the lead of the peloton at the bottom of the Planche des Belles Filles, where his squad topped the team's ranking for the first time, and then rode in the valley to Risoul once his leaders had tried to drop Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) in the descent of the Izoard. On the final stage to Hautacam he supported his leaders before they started the last climb to the finish.
"We now have a great team and our results last July are the results of hard work and special chemistry between us," Riblon said.
An 11-time Grand Tour finisher, the climber from the north of Paris was the single training partner of Bardet in the Vosges prior to the Tour. "But I am not Romain's teacher, I just give advice if he asks!", he insisted. "Jean-Christophe also needs little tips sometimes because he has less experience on the road than Sébastien Minard or me."
Still in the positive wave of the Tour de France, Riblon noticed that he was "right to extend" his contract for three years with Ag2r-La Mondiale.
"Vincent [Lavenu] took three years to create a group of people on the way to the Tour de France," he said. "We know each other and work very well together. We have a good team spirit and we take every opportunities. To be honest, without the withdrawals of Chris Froome and Alberto Contador, Jean-Christophe and Romain would have probably been 4th and 8th [instead of 2nd and 6th overall, Ed.]. But that's part of the race and we will go back to the Tour next year with the same fighting spirit."
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