BRITON Chris Froome may have won The Tour de France for the third successive year.
But it was a Frenchman who earned – and thoroughly deserved – the coveted yellow jersey in INEOS’ first ever Tour de France Challenge.
Stéphane Frigiolini, 31, completed the entire distance of 3,540 km, on his own, in 23 days even though he was working.
Every day the computer technician cycled to work from his home in Offlanges, Franche-Comté, to the office 26km away in Tavaux and then home again. Once he got home, he went out on his bike again.
To make it harder for himself, he rode 2,775 metres uphill.
“I was probably cycling about 100km a day while I was working and more than 200km at the weekend,” he said.
As he neared the end of the INEOS challenge, he asked his bosses at INOVYN if he could take two, half days off.
“In the beginning I just wanted to do as many kilometres as possible to be sure the Tavaux Team succeeded because it was important for me to complete the challenge for the charity we had chosen,” he said. “But then I realised I stood a chance of being first so I decided to give it a go. Those two, half days meant I could complete the 3,450km and stay in front.”
Stéphane also had an added incentive. An INEOS colleague in Antwerp, Belgium, was hot on his heels.
“I would like to congratulate Rudi Rutten because he was second all the way and that helped me to keep going,” he said.
And kept going he did.
“I have done a couple of 200km rides in the past years but nothing compared to what I have just done,” he said. “My legs will remember this challenge for quite a while.”
So he is tempted to give Britain’s Chris Froome a run for his money in next year’s Tour de France?
“I would love to,” he said. “But I would need many years of training to be half as fit as him.”