By John Wilcockson
French champion Christophe Moreau, one of the stars of Sunday’s grueling stage to Tignes, says he is hoping to do well in the Pyrénées in the Tour’s final week and finish on the podium in Paris. His best Tour finish to date was fourth in 2000. After eight stages of this Tour he’s sitting in seventh overall, 3:06 down on race leader Michel Rasmussen, but on a par with other contenders like Alejandro Valverde, Cadel Evans, Fränk Schleck and Denis Menchov.
At a press conference Monday morning in the alpine village of Les Brevières, near Tignes, the AG2R team leader explained why he was so aggressive on Sunday’s final climb. “I believed a lot on this climb to create some time gaps and to see who was and wasn’t competitive,” Moreau said. “I was probably the only who believed that we could challenge the [Tour’s] big act — Astana, Vinokourov, Klöden. It was interesting to try. I had to try something, because I was a little alone in thinking that.
“It’s true I used up a lot of energy in attacking but If I hadn’t done that the time gaps would have been much smaller and most likely leaders like [Vladimir] Karpets, Vino and Klöden would have gotten back to us and it would have been another stage without much happening.”
Moreau added that he was “very tired” from his aggressive day in the saddle and that the other contenders would now pay him much closer attention, but he said he is very proud of what he is doing in the Tour. “I gained confidence from [winning] the Dauphiné and when you have good legs you have to try something. Otherwise what’s the point of racing,” he said.
Moreau, 36, is in his 12th year as a professional. He is in his second season with AG2R after four years with Crédit Agricole and six with the infamous Festina team. He was one of the nine Festina riders in 1998 who confessed to doping, but he said he saw that as a turning point in his career and that he now wants to be an example to younger riders.
When asked Monday about his thoughts on the recent revelations by T-Mobile riders that they too doped in the mid- to late-90s. Moreau said, “I was out of the country [racing] in Spain when that came out, so I didn’t pay much attention. Since then, I’ve followed the developments, the news, but what more can you say, it was up to them. What they said makes cycling look bad. We don’t have any need for that and should continue in a positive direction.”
Getting back to this race, Moreau was asked whether he had a legitimate chance at making the podium. “I hope,” he replied. “I hope. I want to. Now, I know the Tour very well, it’s my wish that I don’t have a bad day. I’m able to pace myself better now but you can’t always be at your best — and I’m thinking here of the Pyrénées which are difficult in the final week.
“For now, everything is going well and I’m recuperating well, but between the difficulties, the strategy and the recuperation, it’s necessary to have a little mélange of all three to succeed and get a chance at the podium. And I know I will have to attack to get on the podium as I’m not great at the time trials right now. But we’ll see.”