'Win or Nothing'
“I wanted to win, or nothing.” That was Alexis Vuillermoz’s objective when the 27-year-old Frenchman rolled to the start of Stage 8 of the Tour de France. After all, he had already been so close to success when he finished third in Stage 3 atop the Mur de Huy, that Vuillermoz wouldn’t have it any other way.
Vuillermoz’s all-or-nothing final push proved perfect on Saturday as he rode away from GC leader Chris Froome and the other top favorites to claim a brilliant victory. It also was the first stage win this year for a French rider.
“When Froome caught us I took his wheel to recover and as soon as he slowed down I tried to attack,” Vuillermoz said. “I didn’t know how it would end. Honestly I was really tired. 800m away from the finish line I was exhausted. But I continued my effort head down, eyes closed I kept pedaling until the end. I though they would catch me, but no one came back. While crossing the finish line I realized what I just did.”
Stage wins are a primary target for AG2R LA MONDIALE at this year’s Tour. The team also is looking to achieve top overall positions, and as of Saturday has two riders in the top 20 -- Jean-Christophe Péraud in 18th and Romain Bardet in 20th.
Vuillermoz’s victory also had significant personal meaning. “I especially think about my father whom I lost three years ago. He was passionate about the Tour de France,” he said. “He motivated me for cycling and for the Tour de France. Today I hope that he is very proud of me. For this stage win, I think a lot about him. I have him deep in my heart which allowed me to fight when I had no force, I went beyond my limits.” Attacking riders often pick up interesting nicknames, and Vuillermoz is no exception. He’s known as Pikachu, a species from Pokémon known for its lightning rod ability.
“Most of the time my attacks are really quick,” Vuillermoz said. “I don’t attack 5km away from the finish but I usually wait until the very last part. And, also, because in the past when I was junior I had a yellow helmet like Pikachu. So “fast attack” and yellow helmet = Pikachu.”
Photos of Stages 7 and 8 ©BrakeThrough Media