February 22, 2008 (Solvang, CA) – All week we’ve followed the progress of the lone Canadian riding in his first season with Toyota-United Pro cycling team in it’s second-year. Like the team, Dominique Rollin is developing into his own skin and game plan beautifully. Yesterday’s epic 216 km (135 miles) Stage 4, was reminiscent of last year’s duel between Rollin and George Hincapie (USA) High Road when they battled it out at the US Pro nationals. But this time it was the 6’2″ Canuck who crossed the finish line first.
We caught up with Rollin this morning before the Solvang ITT to find how he was feeling after his grueling 7-hour plus ride on the bike through some of nastiest weather south of the border, even by Canadian standards.
I kidded Dom about his riding glasses saying that he’d have to switch to darker ones soon to avoid the papparazzzi and ladies. Rollin smiled and said they were his causals, and that’s his demeanor featured no flash or big posing – making him strangely accessible to anyone. Simply put Rollin’s got no diva veins running though him”¦ just pure, and somewhat tamed emotion.
The fans had never seen such an emotional finish like yours yesterday, and many told me they had goose bumps when you came to the podium and pumped the air with such emotion and happiness – even the jaded press acted as if they witnessed something beyond the norm and reacted with loud cheers. How does it feel the day after winning the Queen stage? Were you tapped out with nothing left?
Dominique Rollin: “Yes, I had to rehydrate a lot, eat like a monster to recuperate my energy for the rest of the Tour. And now my team is so excited to help me defend the sprinter’s jersey – we are pumped to continue this goal.”
Did you and George (Hincapie) work together for a possible photo finish together?
DR: The entire day went well, no one skipped turns at the front but with about 20km to go they all started getting tired and slowing down the pace. I didn’t want to wait so I got out and pulled in front five meters and thought, that’s it, I’m going for it now and they’ll have to catch me — I was gone, full throttle.
Did you have it in your head all day to hit it at the last 20km before entering San Luis Obispo? Was Hincapie an ally?
DR: The only guy I was scared of was George. I was hoping he could make it with me, and if he did we could finish together hand in hand.
Really? You didn’t want the win that badly? You’re so old school! How did your DS come into play – was there any advice during those last kilometers?
DR: My radio wasn’t working due to the weather, so my team car came up to me twice during that time and gave me the splits, but when it came down to 20 seconds, they weren’t allowed to get close so I had no contact and looked around. I decided then just to keep the pressure on and that did it.
You had no radio? For how long?
DR: The entire race, the weather conditions messed it up. It was almost like the old days, practically being on your own, monitoring your self, knowing how and when to push yourself.
That must have given you a huge boost knowing you can do it alone without regular contact with the team. How big is this win for you?
DR: Its huge – it shows I can be out there, I think its gonna set things up for bigger things.
Are you planning to stay with Toyota-United or”¦.?
“Yes. So far I’m focusing on this year, especially the next few days over the hills. I have climbed Sunday’s tough new route before, but not tomorrow’s. But I’m not worried, my team gave me the lowdown on where I need to be and when to turn on the juice.”
For today’s time trial – are you cruising easy or is it an important stage?
DR: I’ll go hard enough to stay within the time limits, I don’t care about the GC standings as I’m 20 minutes down. It’s a hard day so there’s no point for me to go all out and waste energy – it’s only 35 minutes on the bike. Hopefully it will open up the legs for me for the next few days.
As the only Canadian rider in the Tour do you feel any pressure to perform for your country?
DR: No, there’s no pressure, even the team didn’t put any pressure on me! Now we’ve had a big pressure release with the stage win, so we’ll just keep making good to hold on to the sprinter’s jersey and have fun.”
After Sunday where are you off to?
DR: I’m staying on the west coast for the weather, training for Redlands and then back to the East to prepare for the Tour of Georgia.
Not returning to Montreal?
DR: No, last year in March I got snowed in and I don’t want to lose my fitness. I won’t make that mistake twice “” I want to keep building up.
That’s exactly what Rollin has been doing all Tour – building up an impressive portfolio of top-10 finishes, and we expect to see him at the front for the rest of this Tour”¦ and the upcoming season.