Thomas Voeckler might be the Direct Energie rider that every French fan wants to see taste victory at the 2017 Tour de France, but Lilian Calmejane may have taken his first steps in taking over the mantle of French favourite from his boyhood hero on stage eight.
Calmejane produced a heroic ride, battling through cramps in the final 10km, to take his first Tour victory in a style that Voeckler would have been proud of.
Resplendant in his polka dot jersey as he spoke to press after the stage, Calmejane spoke about how he had grown up watching Voeckler race, and now found himself riding the Tour de France on the same team.
“The year I started cycling was in 2004, which was the year that Thomas Voecker had his first yellow jersey,” the 24-year-old said.
“Now that I know Thomas I have a lot of respect for him and he has helped me a lot in my first years as a professional.
“I started cycling admiring Thomas Voeckler and now I get to share this moment with him.”
Calmejane escaped on the final first category climb, but suffered from cramps on the rolling run towards the line in Station des Rousses. Thankfully for the Frenchman, he’d had experience of dealing with cramps in a race last year.
“I rarely suffer from cramps,” Calmejane continued, “but I had them at the Tour de l’Ain.
“Between six and four kilometres to go I though about what happened at the Tour de l’Ain and put it in a smaller gear. I’m glad I had the same problem before because if I had stayed in the big gear today I probably would have stopped.”