Pierre Rolland: “Tour success is down to eleven months of sacrifice.”
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Thursday, July 28, 2011

Pierre Rolland: “Tour success is down to eleven months of sacrifice.”

by Ben Atkins at 1:56 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour de France
Europcar’s new French star riding the new wave of French confidence

pierre rollandPierre Rolland (Europcar) was arguably the biggest revelation of the 2011 tour de France. Not only was the 24-year-old Frenchman an almost constant support to his team captain Thomas Voeckler during his ten day stint in the yellow jersey but, once released to ride his own race by an exhausted Voeckler, won one of the most prestigious stages of the race and secured the white jersey for the best young rider.

“I realised one of my dreams and I took home a special jersey,” Rolland told an online chat on Eurosport’s French website. “I realised two of my dreams, but won’t change my life or my way of being.”

His performance in the Tour has given him a new fame, not experienced before, as he discovered in Paris the day after the race finished.

“I walked around the Champs[-Elysées] on Monday and I was recognised,” he said. “It's fun but you have to set limits; I am not yet as popular as [Richard] Virenque and Voeckler. Media pressure, I know how it works. I’ve been riding my bike for quite a while; I have a career plan, I’m standing by that.”

Rolland’s success at the Tour was not by accident though, as he explained, with the life of a professional cyclist demanding more dedication than most.

“I make sacrifices eleven months in the year,” he explained. “I don’t get to see my friends; I rest a lot; I don’t live like a 25-year-old man. I made a lot of sacrifices on food. I rarely eat my fill. I eat a lot of foods without sugar; it is not especially good. We must pay attention to everything.

“It's been a long time since I’ve been to a restaurant...” he added.

While his performance in the third week of the Tour was spectacular, Rolland lost a lot of time in the crashes of the early stages of the Tour. While he didn’t actually crash himself, on stage one he finished 1’55” back, which on stage seven he lost more than three minutes.

Were it not for this time lost, he would very likely have finished far better than eleventh overall, possible breaking into the top five, or event threatening the podium.

“Sure, if you take away the five minutes I lost during the first week and even those lost during the descent to Pinerolo,” he said. “It was like that; I didn’t take any risks, I absolutely didn’t want to crash. It was the choice I made.”

pierre rolandThe other area that Rolland lost time was against the clock; aside from the 50 seconds that Europcar lost in the team time trial on day two, the 24-year-old finished 2’50” behind Tony Martin (HTC-Highroad) on the penultimate stage. If he wants to win the Tour one day, Rolland knows that he needs to do better.

“I rode good time trials when I was younger,” he said. “The Grenoble time trial reassured me. In a few months, we will get our new equipment. We’re getting some amazing equipment; it can really make a difference.

“I will work on the discipline over the winter,” he confirmed.

Now that he has taken the white jersey, the next step for Rolland is winning the yellow one. Many of the best young riders in the race, including Laurent Fignon, Greg Lemond, Marco Pantani and Jan Ullrich have gone on to win the race (although Pantani and Ullrich never actually wore the jersey as it was not awarded in those years).

“Many white jersey winners have not gone on to take the yellow one, including Rolland’s team manager Jean-René Bernadeau, but Rolland would like to add his name to the list of those that did.

“I would love to for sure,” he confirmed. “I won a stage, took a jersey. The next step is to win the Tour. Is what I can do? It's too early to tell.”

Rolland’s success, and the fact that Voeckler only gave up the yellow jersey on the final mountain stage, is a sign that things are getting better for French riders. Ever since the Affaire Festina they have complained of “cyclisme a deux-vitesses”, and many have described themselves as a lost generation as they felt they were racing against riders from nations not so strict about doping as France.

“French riders have come out of the shadows, it's great!” said Rolland “It's good to be at that level. A lot of French riders have been up there in the general classification, which makes a change!

“We’re getting more confidence in ourselves; we’re no longer afraid of the big riders.”


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