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90th Tour de France - July 5-27, 2003
A day in yellow for Nazon
First French Maillot Jaune in Centenary Tour
By Gabriella Ekström in Saint Dizier
Last year, Jean-Patrick Nazon was far from being a celebrated rider in the Tour. After being left out of the Francaise des Jeux Tour team, and then not being offered a new contract at the end of the year, it was even uncertain for a while whether he would continue his career. His month of July was spent in front of the TV, watching his compatriots battle it out for stage wins and colourful jerseys.
"That was a very hard moment for me, and it made me feel very uneasy," said Nazon after donning the yellow jersey in stage 3. "It is always hard for a French rider to be left out from the Tour, and right now I don't wish to think about the circumstances that left me at home. Having said that, I do believe going through those hard times has strengthened me, because with a lot of help from my family and friends, I am here today. In a way, I doubt I would be wearing the yellow jersey today if that had not happened to me."
Before the Tour, Jean Delatour was accused of being amateurs and that they did not belong in the Tour de France. Having proved the opposite, Jean-Patrick is quick to not point any fingers in his moment of glory.
"Yes, of course it is sort of a revenge, but a lot of things can be said in the heat of the moment," said Nazon. "I know Lance Armstrong supposedly said something like that at Dauphine Libéré, but I wasn't there so I cannot comment on it. I think that we have proved now that we are not a bunch of amateurs in Jean Delatour, but are doing the same job as all the other teams and that we do belong in these races. I have certainly regained a lot of my confidence with my achievement today."
After finishing second to Baden Cooke on the stage to Sedan, Jean-Patrick Nazon was very content at first. "Yes, it was rather nice to finish second, it was only after a while I started to realise what I had missed out on. Then I got disappointed instead. I had the chance there already to take over the yellow jersey, and after that we made a few plans for yesterday's stage, with Plan A being to go flat out for the bonus sprints, and plan B was to go for the sprint at the finish. We realised before the stage that we would only be able to hang on to one of those plans, because the last bonus sprint of the day was only 20 kilometres before the finish."
"If we hadn't already known it, it certainly became obvious when we came to the last intermediate sprint, that we wouldn't be able to take part in the final. I could only sit back and hope that FDJeux wouldn't win the stage."
"It is very important for me to have the yellow jersey this year, not only because I'm French and this is the Tour, but also because it is the Centenary Tour. I myself am particularly interested in the history of the Tour. I read a lot of books about the race, and the conditions of the race back when it started always amazes me. I think people will remember me because I was the first French rider to wear the Maillot Jaune during the Centenary Tour."
With all the teams lining up for the team time trial today, it will more than likely be the first and only day for Jean-Patrick Nazon in the yellow. "I know that there's an overwhelming risk I might lose the jersey, but I and my team have the greatest respect for the jersey, and we will certainly not surrender easily. Even if I lose the jersey today, this day will forever be a magic moment in my mind."