Pierre Rolland: “2012 is objective Tour”
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Friday, September 30, 2011

Pierre Rolland: “2012 is objective Tour”

by Ben Atkins at 5:44 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour de France
Hero of Alpe d’Huez going all out for the yellow jersey next year

pierre rollandPierre Rolland (Europcar) is in the vanguard of the wave of newfound confidence in French cycling. The 24-year-old the big revelation of the Tour de France in July, becoming the first French rider to win the white jersey since Benoît Salmon in 1999, and – more significantly – the first rider from the home nation to win atop the mythical Alpe d’Huez since the great Bernard Hinault.

The Europcar rider has called a halt to his incredible 2011 season, following two non-finishes at the GPs de Québec and Montréal, but plans to return next year with a complete focus on the Tour de France.

“It was decided before the Tour that I would stop on September 15,” he explained. “I started in January [at the Tour de Langkawi – ed] and I did not have long periods of break in the season. I have 90 days of racing; I’ve done my quota.

“Between Canada and racing in Italy [the GPs Città di Modena and Prato – ed], there was a big gap that did not allow me to perform. I preferred to leave room for riders who, for example, do not ride in July.”

Although he started so early in the year though, Rolland did not score any significant results until the Tour. His performance there entirely vindicates his strategy, he thinks.

“I was right to stake everything on the Tour, to prepare myself to 100%,” he proclaimed. “I had good reason to believe in my chances and in my ability.”

While it was a gamble to stake so much on a performance in July, where so many of his countrymen have failed in recent years, Rolland was confident that it was going to pay off.

“I felt I had really made progress this winter,” he explained. “It took until July for me to really see it. I’d had reason to be patient. The real moment was really Luz-Ardiden, the first finish in the mountains. I saw that I could compete with the best.”

Rolland’s acheivement was made while riding in support of team captain Thomas Voeckler, who wore the yellow jersey for ten days and eventually finished fourth. Only when Voeckler knew he was finally beaten, on the stage to Alpe d’Huez, did Rolland finally ride for himself.

His final eleventh place overall was also achieved after losing 1’55” on stage one, and 3’06” on stage seven, as he was caught behind some of the first week’s numerous crashes. This accounted for almost half of his finishing deficit to winner Cadel Evans.

Handling the accolades

pierre rollandUnsurprisingly, his performance has won him a great deal of fame in France, which is desperately seeking its next Tour winner.

“I’m managing it well,” he said. “Let's hope it continues. We'll have to get to work to cultivate my emerging reputation. It has nothing like before, when I started talking myself up; now it is justified. This year I won the stage to Alpe d'Huez, I took a distinctive jersey to Paris.

“Two years ago, I had not won anything significant.”

In 2008, in his final year with Crédit Agricole, Rolland was performed strongly at Paris-Nice, where he finished with the best on the stage to Mont Ventoux. He then sent on to take the mountains jersey at the Critérium du Dauphiné Libéré in June, which began to get him noticed as a potential star.

Sadly, his next two years – riding for Bbox Bouygues Telecom – did not live up to those expectations, but the attention he got has helped him to handle the pressure that he now finds himself under.

“That’s certain,” he said. “In 2008, I had an experience that will use today; I’ve alrealy had his pressure on me. It’s usual, I’ll get a lot of attention. In six months, if I go less well, the media will find another rider, this is the game.”

Having ridden so well this July, and in support of another rider until the nineteenth stage, Rolland will go into next season with the same focus, perhaps with a chance of emulating Hinault once more with the first overall French victory since 1985.

“2012 for me is objective Tour,” he explained. “My year will focus on the Tour; [team manager] Jean-René Bernaudeau won’t expect anything of me until June and July; I will adjust my schedule to be the best. In terms of goals, I’m not setting a limit. Lots of things make me feel...

“I hope to stay healthy, have no accidents that could stop my progress,” he added. “With my focus and my hard work, it should be fine.”

To avoid tiredness as much as possible next season, Rolland will start racing slightly later, and avoid travelling to the other side of the world.

“I’ll start in February with a classic program in France,” he said. “This year, I will not go to Gabon, Australia or Malaysia in January. I hope to have my first peak of form at the Critérium International, it’s a race that I really like.”

Nexxt to the first week crashes, Rolland’s single biggest time loss in this year’s Tour was the 2’43” that he conceded to Evans in the penultimate stage time trial. This, he knows, is too much for a rider who wants to win the Tour, and so that is where much of his training will focus this winter.

“I'll mainly work on my time trialling,” he said. “I waiting impatiently for our new equipment. I'll focus on my position on the bike. I will also work on strength training, with gainage [an exercise similar to pliates – ed].”

Whatever he does in next year’s Tour, Rolland – and Voekler – has given French cycling the hope that it can, once again, compete with the very best in the world.


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