John Gadret hasn't been back to Denmark since he rode the 1998 world championship for cyclo-cross in Middlefart in his first year as a U23, but he was also never called for a pre-race press conference at the start of a Grand Tour before he walked in alongside race favorites Ivan Basso, Michele Scarponi, Fränk Schleck, Roman Kreuziger and Joaquim Rodriguez. After Alberto Contador's disqualification, the Frenchman was officially classified third at the 2011 Giro d'Italia but always maintained that it would never have the same taste as going on stage on the podium at the end of the race.
Gadret said: "I wasn't a favorite last year but I proved what I was able to do. I'll try and do the same thing, if not even better. It's always better to not being a favorite. But I know that I'll be watched this year. However, I'd like to win a stage the same way I did it last year." He outclassed Rodriguez and Italian champion Giovanni Visconti at the uphill finish of stage 11 to Castelfidardo and kept his momentum through all the following mountain stages.
He's had a pretty quiet start of the 2012 season with his best results being two 15th places at the Giro del Trentino where he noticed his return to form. "I've had a lot of health troubles early this year," Gadret told Cyclingnews. "Because of bronchitis, I could only resume racing at the Criterium International at the end of March. I thought I was cured at the Giro del Trentino, but I got sick again, so I went to the Tour de Romandie after a treatment by antibiotics. Only in the second last stage, I started to feel good again."
Gadret's health may not have been in his favour in recent times but the Ag2r-La Mondiale are eagerly awaiting his performance at the Giro d'Italia. The team based in the French Alps hasn't won a single race this year up to date. Manager Vincent Lavenu doesn't hide his disappointment. "It's a stressful and unpleasant situation", he told Cyclingnews. "It doesn't match the investment of our partners and the human resources of the team. The potential is there, the team's spirit is good but we haven't found the milestone yet. We've been close to winning, for instance with Rinaldo Nocentini [second to Luis Leon Sanchez in stage 4 of the Tour de Romandie], but our sprinters have failed so far. Anthony Ravard and Martin Elmiger both have health problems – pains in their back – but none of our recruits [Jimmy Casper, Boris Shpilevsky and Manuel Belletti] have won yet as they normally do by this time of the year. Except [Jean-Christophe] Péraud at the Volta al pais vasco [7th overall], our leaders [Nicolas Roche is the other one] haven't met the expectations of their position. But we were actually in about the same situation one year ago: after a good start, we were in a down phase but the Giro put the whole back on track."
Lavenu hopes for the same scenario to be repeated. "We're expecting Gadret to come back to a higher level of performances," he said. "Considering his achievement last year and the will he has to do well again, another spot in the final top 5 is possible. He can even have the ambition for the podium. He's the kind of rider who needs to feel secure with people around him. He's pretty quiet. He's not that much under pressure. He never gives up."
Gadret is not a fan of studying courses but he knows where he wants to be a winner again: at the top of the Passo Stelvio on the penultimate day of the three-week long Tour. "Depending on the time lost in the first part of the Giro, I'll go for GC or stage wins towards the end in the mountains," said the 33-year-old from the north of France.