At the finish in Gueugnon on Friday afternoon, Mathieu Perget from Caisse d'Epargne was furious when answering the obligatory questions about his doomed breakaway. The Frenchman was part of a three-men escape in stage six, which rather predictably ended in a bunch sprint won by Mark Cavendish (HTC-Columbia). Still, Perget insisted that these sort of escapes are more than just show-offs.
"Breaking away on stages like this is not just about advertising the sponsor on TV - I saw that this was written yesterday in L'Equipe and I'm just really mad about it," Perget told Cyclingnews at the finish as he was riding to the podium to receive his honours as most combative rider of the day. "We're not paid per kilometre raced in front, you know. We have team orders, and we respect them."
His team orders were to make the pace for his teammates to break away, but he drove it so hard he got a gap himself. "I found myself in the break trying to filter out some guys in front to make way for the better rouleurs of our team," he said. "But then, I was suddenly away, and of course I didn't stop. I'm at the Tour, after all!"
The 25-year-old is participating in the Tour de France for the first time after having raced the Giro d'Italia three times with his Caisse d'Epargne team, with which he signed in 2006. Always in the service of his leaders, Perget seldom had the chance to score for himself but was successful earlier this year in a French stage race.
"When I won the Tour du Limousin, my breakaway was similarly 'impossible', but then we won the stage with Arroyo and I got second, and won the overall afterwards," he said. "You have to believe in it, otherwise there is really no point in being there."
The longest day in this year's Tour de France, at 227.5km, saw Perget out and about for a total of 215 kilometres, moreover in blistering temperatures around 33° Celsius. Still, the Frenchman was sure he did not waste energy and will be fit once the race gets to his home region, the Pyrenees.
"We did this in an intelligent way, not wasting any forces. I averaged 132 heartbeats per minute on this stage, so this is not going to get me down for long.
"The Pyrenees is where I hope to be able to do something later on in the race. They are my home, I know all the roads by heart."
On top of getting the red back number of most aggressive rider, Perget also took some mountain points on the topsy-turvy run through Burgundy. He is now only one point away from the classification lead. Who knows, maybe we will see him on the attack again tomorrow...
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