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No more illusions for Di Gregorio

Rémi Di Gregorio was unfortunate to puncture at the bottom of the Mont Salève but he climbed really well after a wheel change.

Rémi Di Gregorio was unfortunate to puncture at the bottom of the Mont Salève but he climbed really well after a wheel change. (Image credit: Jean-François Quénet)

Rémy Di Gregorio, hailed as the new Richard Virenque when he stepped up into the pro ranks in 2005 at age 19, has admitted the expectations laid on his shoulders made him lose track of his commitment. Ever since the 2008 Tour de France stage from Pau to Hautacam, where he revealed his talent to the general public on the Tourmalet, the FDJ rider has been aiming to confirm, but the praise he received made him forget to work hard enough.

"Looking back, the stage to Hautacam did not serve me well," the Marseille native told L'Equipe before starting the Tour de l'Ain on Thursday. "It got me excited; I took things for granted and I didn't work out hard enough in the six months after it. I wasn't ready to live up to it, the expectations on my behalf were excessive."

This season, Di Gregorio felt he did everything right but he is still looking for that final touch of luck that would bring him success. "This year, I really put the blinkers on and lived only for cycling," he continued. "I did every race at 100 per cent, without thinking of tomorrow. But I missed out on opportunities. At the Tour of the Basque Country, I got caught at two kilometres from the finish."

The Tour de France was not a good one for the 25-year-old, either. "I came to the Tour feeling just a tad less fresh," he explained.

FDJ directeur sportif Thierry Bricaud added that Di Gregorio is now a marked man, which makes his task even more difficult. "He is more watched by the peloton now," Bricaud commented. "There's no surprise effect any more. In order to win, he has to be stronger than the rest now."

Having learned from his mistakes, Di Gregorio hopes that his work will pay off soon - perhaps at the Vuelta a Espana, in which he will participate for the third time. The Frenchman needs to show that he has gained maturity, as his contract with FDJ is running out at the end of the season.

"I've disappointed many people," he said. "I want to experience things like the 2008 Tourmalet again. I know that I'm capable to do it."

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