David Moncoutié of the French Cofidis squad has flirted with retirement from pro cycling for several years in a row, but came to the peloton back every season and showed that he still had what it takes to win. In 2006 and 2007, multiple injuries made the Frenchman lose out, but in 2008 and 2009, he was back to win two stages of the Vuelta a Espana as well as the KOM classification for two years in a row.
His successes at the Tour of Spain are the biggest reasons for Moncoutié's return to the peloton this year. With a one-year-contract due to expire at the end of the season, the two-time Tour de France stage winner has the chance to accomplish an historic feat: win the best climber's competition at the Vuelta for the third consecutive time.
Speaking to Cyclingnews on Friday morning, while preparing to fly to the Tour of Gabon in Africa where he will start his 2010 racing programme next week, Moncoutié confirmed that this was the plan. "Yes, I like the Vuelta a lot and if I do finish my career at the end of this season, I'd like to finish it this way," he said. "Three participations in the Vuelta, three best climber jerseys - it would be a nice number. It's a challenge."
The 34-year-old will thus aim for a performance peak in September, and while he has accomplished his previous victories in Spain after participating in the Tour de France two months earlier, this year may see him on a different racing programme.
Because of his poor performances at the French Grand Tour these last few years, Moncoutié has thought about not attending the Tour this year - an unheard-of step for a French rider of his calibre. "The last two or three years, I didn't do well at the Tour," he explained. "Last year was not too pleasureable, and I told myself that it was going to be my last time. I want to try to do a season without the Tour, to have a different approach."
Moncoutié did not, however, discard it completely. "I do think about it, I have nothing decided yet. We will see how the first part of the season goes, and who will be on the list to go to the Tour. If the team really needs me, I will go, but there might be other riders ready to take over."
This would see him participating in races that he has never done before, which represents another challenge. Starting with the Tour of Gabon, Moncoutié may also take part in the Mallorca Challenge, and is trying to put together an alternative racing programme for June and July. "It's not easy as we are not in the ProTour anymore," he said. "Plus, I would never have imagined to do a year without the Tour, so I'm not really sure of my racing programme without it. We are still working on it."
In any case, Moncoutié is eager for a third success at the Vuelta, and team manager Eric Boyer delighted that his rider has chosen to take up the objective: "It's his personal challenge," Boyer added."If he lives up to it, then he could really leave cycling by the front door - if he does decide to quit..."
With Moncoutié, nothing is ever set in stone. "I do think of this year as my last - but I have to express some reservations about it. I have said this before and then I change my mind in the last minute..."