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Rémi Cavagna on a memorable season: Next year I hope to be even better

Deceuninck-QuickStep’s Rémi Cavagna goes it alone from the break on stage 16 of the 2020 Vuelta a España, and was only caught two kilometres from the finish in Ciudad Rodrigo
Deceuninck-QuickStep’s Rémi Cavagna goes it alone from the break on stage 16 of the 2020 Vuelta a España, and was only caught two kilometres from the finish in Ciudad Rodrigo (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Deceuninck-QuickStep's Rémi Cavagna says that he hopes to be "even better" in 2021, having enjoyed a dream 2020 season, despite the coronavirus pandemic. The 25-year-old took a dominant solo victory at the Ardèche Classic at the start of the year, and then refused to allow the sport's enforced shutdown to overly affect his season, returning in August to win the French time trial title before making his Tour de France debut, having been a last-minute call-up for his home Grand Tour.

"At the Ardèche Classic, I found myself in the breakaway," Cavagna wrote in a blog published on his team's website on Monday. "It was pouring with rain, but I love those conditions, and I just kept going, stretching out my lead to the point where it became impossible for the peloton to bring me back.

"I won by almost three minutes, and it was a very special day, not only because I got my first pro victory in France, but also because winning so early in the season is always a huge confidence-boost, and helps take the pressure away.

"I was hoping for more in the spring, but then the lockdown came and everything got stopped," he continued. "After that long period, I felt like I was coming out of a holiday. As it wasn't possible to go outside, I trained on my rollers every day, trying to stay fit, but I still wasn't sure what my condition would be."

Cavagna made his return at the Tour de l'Ain at the start of August, and went on to race at the Critérium du Dauphiné, but it was the time trial at the National Championships at the end of the month that was his big goal.

"There, I was able to produce a great ride and finally win the jersey," wrote Cavagna. "I know it's not the biggest race in the world, but to taste victory and know that I would get to wear that special [French champion's] kit for the next 12 months filled me with joy."

Less than a week later, Cavagna was in Nice for the Grand Départ of the Tour de France, having been a last-minute replacement for Zdenek Stybar, with the Czech rider suffering from a knee injury.

"I got called up just two days before the start, and couldn't believe that I would get to achieve this dream I'd had since I was a kid – to race in the most important race in the world," said Cavagna.

"It ended up being a fantastic three weeks for our team: Julian [Alaphilippe] took that early victory, and I got to ride for the yellow jersey, and then Sam [Bennett] stepped in and added two more victories, as well as capturing the green jersey, while I could show the French TT champion's colours on stage 20.

"The parcours didn't quite suit me," he admitted, "with La Planche des Belles Filles at the end, but that didn't stop me from giving everything, and I was really proud to finish the day in sixth place."

Cavagna then also received another call-up to the Vuelta a España in October, and made the most of his second three-week race of the year, when he'd originally been set to ride the Giro d'Italia.

"Doing two Grand Tours in a season was incredible, and I was happy to help the team every time I could. I felt good throughout the race, and went on the attack on multiple occasions, at one point even coming close to victory," he wrote, recalling stage 16, when he was caught by the bunch just two kilometres away from what would have been a memorable solo victory.

Nevertheless, he ended up netting the prize for the most aggressive rider of the race at the finish in Madrid, "which was really nice and a great way to cap off the season".

Cavagna said that he could look back proudly on the year, and hopes that there'll be more to come.

"Those two victories, making my Tour de France debut, and finishing the time trials at both the European and World Championships in the top 10 [second and seventh, respectively] showed that I have developed a lot and am capable of competing against the best riders in the world," he said.

"There is still a lot of room for improvement, and next year I hope to be even better, and help the team get more strong results. That's my main goal heading into the winter."

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