Stage 16 winner.
Stage 16 winner.
"I'm certainly riding smarter at this point of my career. I realized I have to be in it to win it. In the past, I was scared before it arrived. Now I tell myself: ‘If you try your best, the worst thing that can happen is to lose a bike race.' My new state of mind opens doors to many opportunities. [The time off racing before being cleared after a banned substance was detected in a test] was certainly a lesson of life for me. Previously, I accepted whatever happened. After that I took a different outlook at life. I've told myself: ‘Stop living someone else's life'. Goals are sometimes very hard to understand. In the past I've tried to win Grand Tours. Now I know I can win 7-days Tours. But I can't compete in Grand Tours against the likes of Contador, Nibali, Valverde… I have to get out of the overall classification to be able to break away. Had Alberto not crashed, I would probably not be here as a stage winner. I would have been very tired by now because of defending the yellow jersey. Alberto wouldn't have won the Tour easily. Nibali is in the form of his life. There would have been a great battle. Now we have to wait for next year to see that battle and I can tell you that Alberto is already thinking of next year's Tour de France. Now that I got my opportunity to win, I could be grateful to him for having abandoned the Tour but no, I'm heartbroken.
Our plan B to go for stage wins has been studied carefully. I knew today and tomorrow's stages were adapted to my characteristics. I remembered this finish from 2010 when Voeckler won, so I knew he'd be motivated again. But it was very hard to get into the breakaway, particularly because of the strong head wind. We couldn't make it until Garmin managed to put one guy in the front group. After 30km, I was in a breakaway with four guys and one of them was sitting on, not taking any turn. He was the Europcar rider [Kévin Reza]. He was saying: ‘No, my team-mate is chasing behind'. Then at the bottom of the last climb, when we were three riders left, Voeckler said to me: ‘I can't ride, I have a team-mate behind'. I told him: ‘I already heard that 200km ago!' I wasn't going to be fooled on that one. With three Europcar riders in the front group of 21, Voeckler could control, but when they were two out of five, it became harder for him. It's great it worked out fine for me! It's the dream of every cyclist to win at the Tour de France."