A year ago this week, Christophe Le Mével was fighting for the pink jersey at the Giro d’Italia.
The French rider with Garmin-Barracuda is steering clear of the Tour of Italy this year, however, intent on returning to the Tour de France later this season with the freedom to chase stage wins.
“We decided it was best for me to return to the Tour, but first I must make the selection!” Le Mével told VeloNews. “We have many riders who will be trying to earn a spot for the Tour.”
The 31-year-old is hoping to return to the form he had in 2009, when he was 10th, the best French rider in that year’s Tour.
Last season, Le Mével roared into the Giro, posting seven top-10s in the opening 10 stages, and clawing ever closer to the pink jersey. He couldn’t quite break through, and once Alberto Contador (later disqualified) broke out on the climbing stage up Mount Etna, Le Mével’s maglia rosa dreams were over.
“I enjoyed the Giro last year. It was a new challenge for me,” he said. “I was so close to the pink jersey. I was fighting, fighting, fighting for it. In the end, I was a bit burned out from the effort, but I was very content.”
He ended up riding into Milan in 14th overall for one of the best grand tour results of his career.
A solid all-rounder, Le Mével can climb well and put down a decent time trial. If he makes Garmin’s Tour nine, he will ride to hunt for a stage victory.
“We will have an interesting team. We will not bring one big captain who can win, so we can mix things up, attack, make the race lively,” he said. “This year’s Tour will be about trying for a stage victory, maybe getting the yellow jersey — that is the dream of any rider, French or not!”
But as Le Mével suggested, there is nothing sure about being selected for the Tour.
A core group already has their place all but assured, including Christian Vande Velde, Ryder Hesjedal, David Millar, Tyler Farrar, Tom Danielson and David Zabriskie. Behind them, riders such as Heinrich Haussler, Andrew Talansky and Daniel Martin, not to mention a rider or two for Farrar in the sprints, are fighting for spots in what will be a heated battle to make the Tour selection.
When asked if he preferred the Giro or the Tour, Le Mével was crystal clear.
“For a French rider, the Tour is the maximum,” he said. “The Giro is beautiful, but I am French! I love the Tour.”