Two of the five breakaway riders from Sunday's Cancer Council Helpline Classic share the same birthday, September 18. Caisse d'Épargne's Mathieu Perget came into the world 13 years to the day after Lance Armstrong. It was enough of a reason for the two to have a chat one year ago - when the Texan returned to competition at the Tour Down Under. That's when Steve Morabito, Armstrong's then teammate at Astana, made the presentation, and the American signed a jersey for the Frenchman's girlfriend.
Both Armstrong and Perget said they felt like they are in better shape than they were in January of 2009. Perget seemed to prove this by initating the breakaway at the Cancer Council Helpline Classic, and Armstrong followed him.
"I wondered what I could do to show off and please myself," said the 25-year-old Perget. "Halfway into the race, after a fast lap, I thought it was the right moment to attack. But I didn't want to go for just one or two laps ahead. When I attacked, I heard 'go Mathieu' in Spanish, and that was my former teammate Oscar Pereiro."
"When our group was formed, Armstrong's turns were twice as long as ours. He obviously enjoyed being in the front. He was fully on."
Française des Jeux's Mikaël Chérel, the other Frenchman in the break, was also impressed by Armstrong. Chérel was prompt to follow his fellow compatriot off the front and was a bit surprised to see the seven-time winner of the Tour de France joining them in the break.
"It was nice to be out there with him", Chérel said to Cyclingnews. "I don't know if he had something in mind, but he was doing a lot of efforts. It was really impressive. I can tell you that when you are on his wheel when he pedals at threshold, it hurts! He was a step above everybody else in the breakaway."
Chérel was a late inclusion in the FDJ line-up for the Santos Tour Down Under. In December, he replaced New Zealander Tim Gudsell, who had to undergo surgery for herniated disc. The rider from Normandy remembered he had a good time in Adelaide one year ago as he finished 10th overall.
"I wouldn't mind making the top 10 again together with Wesley Sulzberger, and we also hope for a stage win with Yauheni Hutarovitch," said Chérel. "I don't want to put pressure on myself but it would be nice to try something in the Willunga stage as my form looks good at the moment. I'm confident of doing well at the Tour of the Mediterranean after that, and I also see the Tour Down Under as an opportunity to score ProTour points. Without underestimating this race, it's a bit simpler here than at Paris-Nice. Anyway all the races of that level are very interesting to take part in."