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"There were days when I almost abandoned. I’ve had rough days, being on the verge of pulling out, especially after I was in the breakaway and was reined in 500 metres from the line."

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11.09.2015 @ 22:53 Posted by Andy Pedersen

Alexis Gougeard (Ag2r) confirmed that he is destined for a great future when he took his first grand tour stage win in stage 19 of the Vuelta a Espana. The Frenchman was clearly the strongest in a 24-rider group that escaped early in the stage and rode to an impressive solo victory. 

 

Since he turned pro at the beginning of the 2014 season, it has been evident that Alexis Gougeard is one of the biggest French talents. With his aggressive riding style and big power in lumpy terrain, he has already taken a few wins in his home country, most notable in the 4 Days of Dunkirk earlier this year.

 

Now he is making his grand tour debut at the Vuelta a Espana and he has already shown himself in a few breakaways. However, he has mostly been riding in service of Domenico Pozzovivo but with the Italian being far from his best he has had more freedom in the final part of the race.

 

Today he exploited that opportunity perfectly when he took what is by far the biggest win of his career. Having joined a 24-rider breakaway in the early part of the hilly stage 19, he proved to be in a class of his own and rode away to a solo win.

 

"Once again it was a fast start and I did not really believe in my chances," he said. "I eventually made it into a 24-man group. I first spared myself a little.  I had in the back of my mind a few mistakes I made when I was alone in front and was caught not far from the line. I did not panic when Machado attacked.  I waited for the last moment to produce my effort.

 

"It’s a bit far from the line indeed. I knew that if I made it to the top with 20 or 30 seconds, I would have a chance. When they narrowed the gap to 15 seconds I had doubts but I told myself ‘now that you are in this situation, you give everything’. I was not sure I’d win until the last moment. In Avila, with the cobbles and the crowd, I could not hear what my sports director Didier Jeannel was telling me. I could not understand a word, it was stressful.

 

"I don’t realize it yet. Since the first stage, AG2R did a lot of efforts and today we did it. In the finale, I was not nervous. I tried and it worked. It’s an important victory. Today, I have taken a step.

 

"It’s the most beautiful victory of my career, the first in a grand tour. I am really happy. For my team, this Vuelta is a success even if Domenico Pozzovivo does not have great sensations. It’s a reward for what we’ve been doing since the start of the season.

 

"I can climb well on short ascents now. I lost weight and I realise it’s easier. I climb better and today I was not afraid of the last ascent.

 

"There were days when I almost abandoned. I’ve had rough days, being on the verge of pulling out, especially after I was in the breakaway and was reined in 500 metres from the line. The rest day did me good but if I had been told I would win a stage a week later I would not have believed it. I had been better since the time trial in Burgos. I had this stage in mind.

 

"It’s a big satisfaction. Since the beginning of season I have not taken part in many World Tour races, only the cobbled classics, which are not easy when you don’t have the experience. I would like to win in the classics and in the grand tour being the aggressive rider that I am. I am not going to change. I need to know how to spare myself a little to be there for the end game."

 

“Alexis won a stage, we’ve got Domenico Pozzovivo well placed in the GC, it’s a good Vuelta for the AG2r-La Mondiale team. Alexis had been in a breakaway three times, the fourth time was the good one. It’s great for him, I’m very happy for this young rider. He’s hugely talented," Blel Kadri said.

 

"This victory is the concretization of our good Vuelta. We tried a lot since the first day and today it worked. Alexis won like a champion. He is a rookie but he recovers perfectly. He often attacks and never gives up. This morning, I told him that I wanted to see him in the last km for the stage victory. He is a fighter and a great rider."

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