Ag2r-La Mondiale's Christophe Riblon is relishing the Tour de France's Grand Départ in Yorkshire, and particularly the second stage into Sheffield, which he believes offers him a stage-winning opportunity and the chance of a significant stint in the leader's yellow jersey.
Riblon won the mountain stage to Ax 3 Domaines in the 2010 Tour de France and last year's stage that featured the first double ascent of L'Alpe d'Huez.
Riblon is likely to have more freedom than expected at the Tour as a result of Carlos Betancur's enforced absence due to illness in Colombia. He's revealed that he really likes the look of stage two between York and Sheffield "as the hills come one after another, and the break could go all the way to the finish."
He thinks that the day’s stage winner will also take the yellow jersey.
"I think that if [Mark] Cavendish is in yellow after the first stage, Quick Step won't defend the jersey on the road to Sheffield. It’s too hard for him," Riblon told L'Équipe. "So whoever takes the yellow jersey that day could keep it as far as the Vosges if they can get over the cobbles [on stage 5] without any problem. I know that, even though I don't do Paris-Roubaix, that I don't have any issues with the cobbles."
Although the 33-year-old Ag2r-La Mondiale rider admits he could have shot himself in the foot by revealing his plans, he adds that this year's Tour de France route offers him plenty more opportunities to add a third Tour stage to his palmarès. He is set to study the stages in the Vosges after finishing the Tour of Switzerland on Sunday, and also believes the stages to Risoul and Hautacam suit him. But it's that Sheffield stage that he's focusing on initially.
"I've been asking the team to do a reconnaissance of the last 60km of the stage on the Thursday before the Tour starts," he explained. "Usually we like to take things easy two days before the race, but I think it would be really stupid not to do a recce. We can put our feet up on the Friday."
Riblon says that he is hoping for a top 10 finish in Switzerland and believes he can achieve a similar result in July. Better still, though, would be a victory for Ag2r-La Mondiale in the team competition, after they finished second in 2013 behind Saxo-Tinkoff.
"Last year I received the award as the most aggressive rider on the Champs-Elysées. Going up onto the podium was really something. I would love to have that experience again with the whole team," said Riblon.
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Peter Cossins has written about professional cycling since 1993 and is a contributing editor to Procycling. He is the author of The Monuments: The Grit and the Glory of Cycling's Greatest One-Day Races (Bloomsbury, March 2014) and has translated Christophe Bassons' autobiography, A Clean Break (Bloomsbury, July 2014).