Peraud winds down career at Vuelta a Espana

When asked by Cyclingnews whether the 2016 Vuelta a España is his last race as a professional, Jean Christophe Peraud gave a somewhat unexpected answer today.

"I don't know yet, I'd like it to be my last," says Peraud, who was second in the 2014 Tour de France, and the country's best placed overall finisher in the race in 17 years when he finished just behind Vincenzo Nibali. "Let's ask [AG2R sports director] Julien Jurdie, this way we'll find out."

Jurdie duly confirmed to Peraud that the Vuelta is his last mass start event as a professional, but then dropped what appears to be a little bombshell: that Peraud will be doing the trade team time trial at the UCI Road World Championships in Qatar for his last outing in AG2R colours, an answer that does not appear particularly to please the 39-year-old.

If Peraud's last event will be amidst Qatar's flat desert and the skyscrapers of Doha, his final mass start event is definitely this year's Vuelta, the race in which he began his Grand Tour career in 2010. He wants to go out with one last top result in the mountains, his favourite hunting ground

"My level is good, maybe not the absolute highest but acceptable when you look back at other years," Peraud told Cyclingnews. "I'm satisfied with it. I had a good ride in the Lagos de Covadonga [finishing 12th, as well as 13th in Peña Cabarga] and the worst was probably going up to Ezaro [on stage three, finishing 35th] where mentally I wasn't on my game.

"The objective is a stage win, but it's really difficult to find a chance, there really hasn't been an opportunity to get into a break. I tried yesterday [stage 12] in vain, but that turned out to be fortunate in any case because the break got pulled back."

A double winner of the Criterium International and ninth in the 2011 Tour as well as second in 2014, Peraud says it is "unlikely" he will be able to shine on French soil on Saturday on the Col de l'Aubisque.

Instead, he is keeping his powder dry for the third week. "It's the really tough stage of the Vuelta, with a parcours that is quite intimidating and normally where the GC contenders will really be making their impact."

"It's more the third week, when I'll be a long way off overall, when I'll have a chance."

After crashing out in the Giro d'Italia early on but making his return to the Vuelta for his curtain call in the Grand Tours, the Frenchman says the racing has changed in the last seven years. "The routes were short and punchy, with lots of uphill finishes, but getting in breaks now is a lot harder."

In any case, he feels it's time to quit his career. "This is my last big race and I'm trying to enjoy it as much as I can. But I'm ready to retire, I feel increasingly scared when I'm riding a bike. So it's time to move on."

As for next year, Peraud says he has not got a clear idea about what he wants to do. "I will think about that harder after the Vuelta."

Whatever he does, it will certainly be in cycling, he hopes, "because that is still something I care for passionately."

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