Pierre Rolland took his second major victory of the season on Saturday. The Frenchman displayed his still-sharp Giro d’Italia form on the climb up to Gavarnie-Gèdre.
“At first I did not feel especially strong, but with this strong heat one should not pay attention to the sensations which sometimes feel very different,” Rolland said. “The victory in the Giro freed me of the weight of no longer finding the way to victory. I am happy with how I managed the Giro and heading into the Tour de France.”
The win comes on the heels of his stage 17 victory at the Giro and demonstrated both tactical acumen and strength. Rolland linked up with the breakaway from kilometer 20. The peloton narrowed the breakaway’s advantage to one minute on the Tourmalet, and Rolland rode away with Gianni Moscon (Sky) and Silvan Dillier (BMC Racing) on the descent.
Rolland entered the final climb up to Gavarnie-Gèdre with a 50-second advantage. He reached the top 42 seconds ahead of Moscon.
Rigoberto Uran finished fourth on Saturday with the second group on the road.
“For me, that’s the demonstration that athletically that’s a really strong performance,” said sport director Charly Wegelius. “He’s on form and he’s going good. He got in the break, managed himself, and he was super strong. All I had to do was ask him to wait for the BMC rider riding for GC in the valley.”
The 167km stage wound through the high mountains of the Pyrenees and provided a measuring stick for pre-Tour fitness. Rolland put in a smooth attack at four kilometers to go that dispatched Moscon and held it to the wire.
“There was a quick rush at first. We never had a big advantage because there was Silvan Dillier from BMC, who was only 20 seconds back to the GC. On the Tourmalet our advantage was reduced and I decided to accelerate,” Rolland said. “We approached the last climb with little advantage, but I just told myself that I had not done it all for nothing so I’m going as fast as possible.”
The victory is further confirmation of what Rolland himself called “Pierre Rolland 2.0.” Rolland finished his first season with Cannondale-Drapac last season but didn’t notch a major win, something that gnawed at the two-time Tour de France stage winner as he rebuilt himself with Cannondale-Drapac boss and his trainer, Jonathan Vaughters.
“Pierre is a rider who follows the letter of the training to a T,” Vaughters said. “It’s so rewarding to be able to see him get these results this season because I know exactly how hard he works for them. Last week alone he put in 28 hours of solid training. Keep in mind that’s between the Giro and the Tour. He’s an incredibly hard worker and a very good guy. I’m so happy for him.”
La Route du Sud finishes tomorrow with 155km anticipated sprint stage from Gers-Saint Michel to Nogaro.
images supplied by: Route du Sud – la Dépêche du Midi