Benjamin Thomas finally broke down. A few sobs, while still dripping with sweat, at the sun-baked finish in Rocamadour. It was the end of a 40,7 km long time trial in the heart of the sumptuous landscapes of the Lot. A tricky time trial, marked by numerous bends, winding passages, restarts and, at the end, the impression of a deliverance with the certainty to reach the prestigious finish on the Champs-Élysées.
They will see Paris this Sunday and this perspective is the sign that they have resisted to everything. Simon Geschke, Ion Izagirre, Anthony Pérez, Pierre-Luc Périchon and Benjamin Thomas have competed in the fastest Tour de France in history, held on the cobblestones of the North, in the fury of the Alps, in the heat wave and in the Dantesque stages of the Pyrenees... This particularly trying Grande Boucle, these 20 stages from Denmark to the South-West, are now classified as memories.
A last opportunity to shine
There was one last exercise this Saturday before seeing Paris: a 40,7 km time trial between Lacapelle-Marival and Rocamadour. Even if this is not the most popular exercise of the Cofidis team, the riders wanted to do it with application and seriousness, faithful to the values they have been holding dear since the beginning of this Tour de France. Anthony Pérez had shown the way by signing a more than honourable time (44th, 4 min 21 sec behind Wout Van Aert). Benjamin Thomas also gave it his all. He was provisionally 10th, but finally finished 24th at 3 min 09 and 1st Frenchman.
From now on, there is only one stage left to go before being among the finishers of this Tour de France. The 116 km to be covered between La Défense Arena and the Champs-Élysées for a peloton worn out by the repetition of efforts, could favour a small finish on the most beautiful avenue in the world. And the Cofidis riders will do everything they can to be in the game and to compete for victory in this final stage of the 2022 edition.
Benjamin Thomas: "It was a tough stage, I gave it my all. I was unlucky: I lost my bottle after 2 kilometres and I was terribly thirsty at the end. I think that I am in my place. I was discovering the Tour de France and it was really exhausting, very fast, with no 'quiet' stages. Now we have the prestigious stage on the Champs-Élysées and we will try to do everything we can to get the victory. "
Anthony Perez: "I gave it my all on this stage. I didn't feel very well, I was a bit disappointed with my last week because I was a bit sick. I started by being diligent, concentrated until the end but I felt that I didn't have much energy left. It's an exercise that I like, I always want to do well and obviously I'm a bit disappointed not to do as well as last year.
Alain Deloeuil, sport director: "Our riders have done a very hard time trial. It was not easy to keep the motivation intact after so much effort. Benjamin Thomas finished close to the 'top 20', being the best French rider: that's a great performance from him. Tomorrow will be the apotheosis. We will try to do our best, to try our luck until the end to make this beautiful Tour de France a reality, which we will finish tomorrow.