Christophe Riblon said he had achieved a life-long dream in winning the 14th stage of the Tour de France at Ax-3 Domaines. He also confessed that if someone had asked him about his chances of winning just the night before, he wouldn't have bet a Euro on them.
The 29-year-old Frenchman stated that his AG2R-La Mondiale boss Vincent Lavenu had been exaggerating when he said that Riblon had been on the verge of quitting the Tour after stage 13. But he acknowledged he felt extremely disappointed with his performance over the first two weeks of a Tour in which he had hoped to take a high overall finish.
"It's true that I had ambitions for the general classification at the beginning of the Tour. But I didn't feel the way I hoped to during the first two weeks of the race, and the last two or three days were really painful for me. Last night I felt very disappointed because I was expecting a lot more of myself," said Riblon.
"But Vincent and team director Julien Jurdie came to see me and they really helped me mentally. They said that I'm a better rider in the third week of major tours and said that they really believed in me. That really boosted me up for today."
The AG2R man said he knew that Astana were riding hard on the front of the yellow jersey group behind his breakaway group, but tried to hold back as much as he could as that group splintered on the climb of the Port de Pailhères, which preceded the final ascent. "I needed to reach the foot of the final climb without having pushed myself too hard.
"I think I rode the last climb well. When you are at the front with a chance of winning a stage like this you become a different rider. During the final 20km I was thinking: 'I want this stage. I'm going to win it.' But during the last few kilometres I didn't want to take the risk of looking back and seeing other riders coming up behind me. The crowds were unbelievable. I really benefited from the support they gave me."
Brought up riding on the track, Riblon has successfully combined the two disciplines during his six seasons as a road pro. In 2008 he took a silver medal in the points race at the World Track Championships in Manchester. This year he won another in the Madison.
"Track is very important in my career," he said. "My team allow me the opportunity to do both and I've shown that it is possible to ride on the track and be a good climber. I don't consider myself a great climber like Alberto Contador, but I'm a good one. But I've also loved the road as well, and used to watch climbers like Marco Pantani and Thierry Claveyrolat when I was young. It's been my dream since I started cycling as a six year old to do good things at the Tour de France and more than 20 years later my dreams have come true."
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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).
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