When it rains it pours for Christophe Riblon (AG2R La Mondiale) as the 32-year-old Frenchman has claimed two huge stage victories in the space of 10 days at two national Tours, the Tour de France and the Tour of Poland.
After not winning a race for three years, Riblon first prevailed on the queen stage of the Tour de France, replete with the historic double ascent of Alpe d'Huez in a single stage. Part of the early break in the Tour's 18th stage, Riblon soloed to victory on the historic summit after chasing down and passing fellow breakaway companion Tejay van Garderen (BMC) in the closing kilometres of the second ascent of Alpe d'Huez. Three years to the day after his previous victory, also at the Tour de France, Riblon scored the biggest win of his life in the Tour's endgame and provided France with its sole stage win of the 2013 Tour. At the Tour's conclusion Riblon was also honoured as the most combative rider of this year's race.
Riblon was supposed to take a break after the Tour de France, but due to his teammate Jean-Christophe Peraud breaking his collarbone in stage 17 Riblon took Peraud's place on the AG2R La Mondiale roster for the Tour of Poland, which started six days after the Tour's conclusion in Paris. The first two stages of the Tour of Poland took place outside of Poland's borders in the Italian Dolomites and after finishing 29th on the first mountain finish, claimed by Diego Ulissi (Lampre-Merida) from a 15-man lead group, Riblon's Tour de France fitness kicked in on Sunday's second stage, culminating with a summit finish on the Passo Pordoi.
Once again Riblon found himself in the day's early break and was among the lead group of six which reached the base of the stage's third and final category 1 ascent, the 13km climb to the Tour of Poland's ceiling at 2,239m on the Passo Pordoi.
Maciej Paterski (Cannondale) fired the initial salvo, but Riblon and Thomas Rohregger (RadioShack Leopard) bridged up to the Pole. With eight kilometres to go Riblon made his move and rode solo to victory in the Tour of Poland's queen stage, his second victory in 10 days. Additionally, Riblon nearly took over the leader's jersey, finishing the day just six seconds out of yellow.
"I was really motivated to take part at this Tour of Poland and the final decision has been taken just after the Tour de France," said Riblon. "I wanted to take advantage of my present good shape and also win some WorldTour points that are very important for the team. It is also a reward after a week with many sacrifices because it is never easy to compete immediately after the Tour.
"The stage was very hard and It was a long day. I was always in the lead break and it wasn't easy. In the final there was a lot of wind and in the last kilometers you could really feel it."
The Tour of Poland's peloton now travels from Italy to Poland and has a rest day on Monday in Krakow. The remaining five stages kick off on Tuesday with AG2R La Mondiale having two riders in the top-10 on general classification: Riblon in third at six seconds and Domenico Pozzovivo in eighth at 13 seconds.
"Domenico Pozzovivo and I are the leaders of the team here at the Tour de Pologne, we'll see how it goes in Poland," said Riblon. "These two stages were grueling, and they selected the classification a little but in Poland there is still going to be a struggle. The next stages are difficult but considering my good shape I'm pretty confident. The individual time trial on Saturday could also help me to improve my overall ranking.
"For me, anyway, it was fantastic to win here after the victory at Alpe d'Huez - two big thrills just a short while apart."
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Based in the southeastern United States, Peter produces race coverage for all disciplines, edits news and writes features. The New Jersey native has 30 years of road racing and cyclo-cross experience, starting in the early 1980s as a Junior in the days of toe clips and leather hairnets. Over the years he's had the good fortune to race throughout the United States and has competed in national championships for both road and 'cross in the Junior and Masters categories. The passion for cycling started young, as before he switched to the road Peter's mission in life was catching big air on his BMX bike.
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