“Simplement montrer ce que je sais faire dans la montagne…,” said French climber Rémy Di Grégorio when asked in his interview in the official Tour de France programme what his goals were for the race.
Injury blunted his ambitions for showing us what he could do in last year’s edition but an absence of Grand Tour stage wins and results has not kept the young, up-and-coming rider from capturing the limelight. In recent times we’ve had a feature article in Cycle Sport and now the two page spread in the official programme. His profile has rivaled that of more accomplished riders such as Sylvain Chavanel, David Moncoutie, or Christophe Moreau.
It is hard, however, not to warm to Di Grégorio. Labeled the ‘new Virenque’ he seems a far cry from the ambitious young Richard. Confident, yes. Capable in the mountains, yes. But in his interviews he retains a modesty, seemingly content to progress at a slow rate, building his skills and his experience. He certainly will not be challenging for the overall in the Tour this year of even next, if at all.
Di Grégorio seems content to take the races as they come. The 22-year old from Marseille won the climbing competition in the Dauphiné Libéré last year, but seemed content to let the title slip away this year. He told local media that he was happy with his form in the mountains, but still lacked the ‘kick’ to stay with the faster climbers and was hoping to build his form for the Tour.
He confesses to not being a student of the great climbers of history, like Bahamontes and Van Impe, but is apparently a fan of Pantani. Like Pantani, Di Grégorio prefers to train on instinct, rather than using a power meter or even a heart-rate monitor. Pantani had his dope, but Di Grégorio has only his head and his legs, which would surely warm the heart of a traditionalist like Bahamontes and one cannot help but think that the Spanish legend himself would approve of Di Grégorio’s approach.
Di Grégorio weighs in somewhere around 65 kgs, depending on sources, for his 180 cm frame. A climber’s build, no doubt, but not as lanky as the Schleck brothers or as diminutive as, say, John Gadret or Riccardo Ricco. But climb he surely can, and favours the long breakaway, the victory in the mountains that everyone will remember.
He confesses to a love of Alpe d’Heuz, but that stage will be a hotly contested one at this Tour, with a number of capable climbers already announcing their intentions to do well there and, at the late stage of the race, the GC contenders will be riding hard.
He has already checked out the main climbs of the Pyrenees but is wary about pre-riding climbs, saying that in a race situation there are always surprises.
Perhaps stage 6, with a climb to the finish at Super-Besse in the Massif Central region will be his opportunity for a breakaway, or even stage 7 the next day to Aurillac with five rated climbs. The peloton may be reluctant to chase a breakaway with the Pyrenees looming.
But perhaps Di Grégorio will wait for a more iconic victory. The choice is entirely his. We are simply waiting, Rémy. Show us what you can do in the mountains.