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Kern shows Europcar’s depth ahead of Tour de France

Christophe Kern (Europcar) wins stage 5 in the 2011 Criterium du Dauphine

Christophe Kern (Europcar) wins stage 5 in the 2011 Criterium du Dauphine (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)

Christophe Kern’s (Europcar) stage victory at the Dauphiné was the mark of a great talent that had so far failed to live up to the expectations he was placed under as a young rider. But he showed that at 30 it is not too late to become a winner, and in Les Gets he also proved that Europcar isn’t only about his good friend Thomas Voeckler.

It’s actually because of Voeckler’s ambitions that Kern went on the offensive and passed lone escapee Oliver Zaugg (Leopard-Trek) with 3km to go on the final ascent to Les Gets. “I attacked knowing that even if I was going to get caught, Thomas [Voeckler] was one of the fastest sprinters for the stage win,” Kern said. “I wanted to go as far as I could.”

But he wasn’t caught and enjoyed what is only his third win as a professional since the GP Rudy Dhaenens at the beginning of his first pro season in 2003 and a stage at the 2004 Tour de l’Avenir. “The first one in Belgium also had a particular flavour,” he said. “Six and half years without winning a race, it’s long.”

“It’s super to win here today because the Dauphiné is a big race and this is a mountain stage”, he added. “I got close two years ago at the Tour de France in Arcalis. I tried again on stage 1 here on Monday but I got caught with 800 metres to go. [Europcar team manager] Jean-René [Bernaudeau] encouraged me loudly today.

"I’m very happy for the whole Europcar team. We’ve done a great job today. The atmosphere in the team is fantastic. I had a knee injury at the beginning of the year and I came back nicely to my best level. Three weeks before the Tour de France, this is my best win ever so far.”

Kern also thanked his team management for their patience when he was sidelined with a knee injury at the beginning of this year. He was scheduled to wear the new colours of Europcar at Le Tour de Langkawi in January but he could only resume racing at the end of March. “I was always told that I was expected to be in good form in June and July, not before,” Kern said. “This week, a few riders and directeurs sportifs have told me that I look fitter than ever.”

The Frenchman could have been more successful as a cyclist since he won the bronze medal at the junior world championship won by Damiano Cunego in Verona in 1999. He came out of Bernaudeau’s development team, Vendée U, and logically joined his pro team, Brioches La Boulangère, but a lack of performances forced him to move to other French teams: Crédit Agricole and Cofidis. He only rode the Tour de France for the first time in 2009 and finished second at Arcalis behind Brice Feillu and wore the polka dot jersey for a day.

As Voeckler became more and more important in Bernaudeau’s project, the French champion asked for bringing back the wasted talents Kern had shown as a young rider. Kern was next on the agenda after Anthony Charteau who was the king of the mountain at last year’s Tour de France.