It wasn't very long ago that Jean-Christophe Péraud was a regular top contender on the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup. In 2008, he earned the silver medal in the elite men's cross country race at the Olympic Games in Beijing. Then in 2009, Péraud won the French time trial national championships and drew the attention of some road team directors.
He made the switch from mountain biking and committed to racing the road with Omega Pharma-Lotto in 2010. Fast forward to 2014, and he has just earned himself and his AG2R team a podium place at the Tour de France.
Despite a flat tire and subsequent bike change in the Tour's final 54km time trial on Saturday, Péraud went fast enough to secure second overall in this year's race, after moving ahead of Thibaut Pinot in the final race against the clock.
Overcome by emotion after his time trial finish on Saturday, Péraud said with tears of joy in his eyes, "I came for a top five place, but when [Chris] Froome and [Alberto] Contador were out, it opened up my possibilities, and little by little, I started to think about second place, so for me, it's a little victory."
What a difference a year has made for Péraud. In 2013, he crashed out of the Tour de France during a wet stage 17 time trial in the final week of the race. He had been racing with a non-displaced collarbone fracture he had gotten in a course-scouting crash earlier that same day, and when he went down, it was right in front of his family, who'd lined up at the very same corner to cheer him on.
Olympics vs. Tour
So what's more satisfying - a second place overall at the Tour de France or a silver medal at the Olympics? The 37-year-old told Cyclingnews that his silver medal in cross country mountain biking in the 2008 Olympics remains his greatest achievement.
"It's still the Olympics, because it's the event that always made me dream, with the Coubertin spirit and everything else," he said.
Given his age, Péraud is obviously nearing the end of his pro racing career, but he said he's not ready to hang up his cycling shoes yet.
"I still want to discover things. I've never done the Giro [d'Italia], for instance, but I think I have two years left in front of me to do it."
Péraud, who spent three years racing on the same Orbea mountain bike team as his compatriot, Julien Absalon, was quick to credit his AG2R squad for his success at this year's Tour de France.
"I'm proud of this team, who brought me to here," he said.
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