David Moncoutie is 37 years old today – bon anniversaire!
David’s another of my favourite riders [what, another one? – Ed], largely I suspect because we have a lot in common. I like the fact that he’s remained loyal to the Cofidis team after turning professional with them in 1997. I like the fact that he’s at the opposite end of the scale from say Robbie McEwen in terms of bike handling skills. Also, that he’s a bit of a loner. He’s either up at the front of the peloton trying to win the stage or down at the back. You never see him riding along in the middle having a chat.
He’s also the one rider everyone agrees rides clean, relying merely on homeopathic remedies. His nickname’s ‘The Postman’ but I’m not sure whether that’s a reference to his family who all worked for the Post Office or something else.
His teammates have joked that while they are eager to try the latest and lightest equipment, Moncoutie, a bit of a technophobe, is happy to stay with what he knows best. His directeur sportif Eric Boyer has said:
David is a loner. He’s happy in a group but he doesn’t need it to live. When I came to the team, I said to myself, as other people must have, that I was going to try to change him, to chivvy him up so that he got more involved, that he raised his ambitions. Today, I realise that even if I find one or two keys to open the door, I won’t get very far. It doesn’t interest him. He just wants to be left in peace.
Raised in a family of football fans he played the game until the age of 19, when his love of cycling, which he’d only taken up aged 16, took over. He was spotted by cycling legend Cyrille Guimard while riding for a team in Toulouse, was offered a contract to join Cofidis and the rest, as they say, is cycling history.
He’s not a prolific winner of races and titles, although if he wins a fifth consecutive King of the Mountains at this year’s Vuelta a Espana, he will go into the history books. It’s largely thanks to him that Cofidis have been given a Vuelta wildcard the last few years. However, despite his antipathy for the Tour de France, he can be relied upon to win races and those all-important points every year. It took him until 1999 to record his first win for the team – a mountain stage in the Dauphine Libere – and he’s racked up victories every year since, apart from 2007 when he was injured.
He has something of a love/hate relationship with the Tour, which he’s ridden ten times, winning stages in 2004 and 2005 when he won the stage from Briancon to Digne-les-Bains on Bastille Day, earning the heartfelt gratitude of millions of French people. His best finish was 13th in 2002. He hoped to build on that the following year but afterwards, shaken by the speed, he said:
I’m not capable of following the leaders. That season, I won a stage of the Tour du Pays Basque, I came 13th in the Tour of Catalonia and sixth in the Dauphine Libere, so I said to myself ‘Why not?’ I was hoping to end up reasonably high in the general classification. But in the Tour, that’s madness. From the Vosges, I realised that the best I could hope for was a stage. I’ve often heard it said that I could finish in the first five of the Tour de France. It’s a dream! Me, I’ve never believed that. I’ve always fixed myself realisable objectives that matched my way of riding and my convictions.
Moncoutie’s going to pass on the Tour this season. Instead his priority will be the Vuelta, which he much prefers and where he has enjoyed repeated success, as he explains:
I’ve ridden it four times, and I’ve won four climber’s jerseys and four stages. I really prefer the Vuelta to the Tour. It’s easier in terms of pressure, and harder in terms of terrain. The Tour has a week of flat where I waste a lot of strength. In the Vuelta, there are mountains straight away and that suits me better.
Moncoutie will not make a decision on retirement until the end of the season:
I still love the bike and my desire to win is still there. As long as I enjoy it and the legs are there, I’ll keep going. I will stop one day. Maybe at the end of the season, I don’t know yet.
Let’s leave David watching him do what he does best, winning a mountain stage at last year’s Vuelta: legs 11