Moncoutié to target mountains title on return to Tour

Having skipped the race in 2010 and effectively called time on his stormy love affair with the Grande Boucle, Cofidis climber David Moncoutié will return to the Tour de France in 2011 to target the King of the Mountains title, says his team manager Eric Boyer.

Boyer told Cyclingnews that Moncoutié’s third consecutive success in the Vuelta a España’s climbers competition in September had persuaded him to return to the Tour.

A winner of hilly stages in the 2004 and 2005 Tours, the 35 year old has nonetheless failed to shine in the Alps and Pyrenees. He became disillusioned with the Tour after an opaque performance in 2009 which drew criticism from Boyer.

“We’re thrilled that David has decided he wants to do the Tour again,” Boyer told Cyclingnews on Wednesday. “He’ll target a stage-win and the King of the Mountains title and I see absolutely no reason why he can’t fulfill both objectives. He’s very strong now, physically and mentally. If Anthony Charteau can win the polka-dot jersey in 2010, then David can win it in 2011.”

Charteau’s victory, of course, was achieved under different rules from the ones riders will face next July. At the Tour’s route presentation in October, race chief Christian Prudhomme announced that in 2011 double points will be on offer at summit finishes, while only the first six riders will collect points atop hors catégorie climbs.

While most pundits predict that the rule changes favour riders also in contention for the yellow jersey, in Moncoutié’s case, Boyer disagrees.

“David has no interest in the general classification, but I don’t think the change to the points system hinders him,” Boyer argued. “As I said, he’s very confident in his own ability now. He no longer worries about what the other riders are or aren’t doing, and whether he can compete. He knows that he doesn’t need to be afraid of anyone.”

Boyer’s allusion to Moncoutié’s rivals hints at one of the main subtexts of the Frenchman’s career, namely that he has long been both an opponent and victim of widespread doping. Dubbed “The Eco-Warrior” on account of his devotion to homeopathic remedies, he remains a quiet but conscientious objector to what he hopes and believes is cycling’s dwindling drug culture.

“I’d say it’s a lot calmer now,” Moncoutié said after the Vuelta. “The things I’m seeing now are a bit more normal. The climate is healthier. That said, there are still a few riders who are riding really, really fast…”

For every expert like Boyer who estimates that Moncoutié “could have finished on the podium of the Tour in a different kind of cycling”, there are also those who believe the problem lies not with doping but his lack of ambition. Andy Schleck, for one, has said that Moncoutié‘s natural talent is worthy of a Tour champion.

Moncoutié, though, has remained resolute in his belief that cycling should be synonymous with enjoyment. He once stated that his dream was not to retire with a trophy-room full of silverware, but to find a job at the Post Office.

“I think he would have won the Tour de France by now if he wasn’t so zen,” Moncoutié’s Cofidis team-mate Jean-Eudes Demaret told Cyclingnews recently. “He’s too cool. Then again, you say to yourself that, if he was more driven, maybe he wouldn’t be the rider he is. He lived for two years right in the middle of Paris, training in the parks…and those were the two seasons when he climbed best! That says it all about David.

“At the 2009 Vuelta, I can remember him opening the roadbook at the start of the race, looking along the route profile and basically plotting the whole race. It was like, ‘That’s flat, that’s flat, I’ll lose three minutes there, ten minutes there, then I’ll win that stage…’ And it all turned exactly as he’d said. It was phenomenal!”

Boyer also confirmed today that, for the fourth year in a row, Moncoutié has signed only a one year contract with Cofidis, “but will be very welcome to stay at the team should he decide to prolong his career beyond 2011."

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