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It's been a long time coming, no less than nine years in fact, but Frenchman Frdric Guesdon has finally added a second Classics victory to his 1997 Paris-Roubaix success that seemed to mark him out as his country's most likely pretender in such events. Following a stage win in the Tour of Gabon right at the start of the year, it was the 35-year-old Guesdon's second success of the season, and came in the face of concerted pressure from the 2006 ProTour's leading team, CSC, whose Kurt-Asle Arvesen was beaten by Guesdon in the cat-and-mouse sprint on Tours' Avenue du Grammont, with Stuart O'Grady leading home the pack eight seconds later in third place.
Speaking to L'Equipe, Guesdon admitted he had had lots of highs and plenty of lows in the nine years since his surprise Roubaix victory, but said that "thinking about Roubaix has always given me motivation. A lot of people labelled me a surprise winner of Roubaix, but since then I have always managed to get good results there and at the Tour of Flanders. And winning Paris-Tours will cause some to reconsider nine years on from that," added the Franaise des Jeux veteran.
"This shows that I am still serious, that I'm not too old to win races," said Guesdon, whose 10-year-long deal with Franaise des Jeux has just been extended and is recognised on the team's jersey. "I hope this will give motivation to other veterans. At the moment, after all the stories we've heard, a lot of emphasis has been placed on younger riders. It has been said that younger riders are coming into the sport at a bad time, but I also arrived in the sport at a bad moment, and things haven't always been easy. This is also a boost for French cycling. We've eaten humble pie, received a lot of criticism, and it's good for a French rider to win a ProTour event."
Guesdon also hopes his win in the 'sprinters' Classic' will act as a spur for emerging French riders, particular 2002 world junior champion Arnaud Grard, who is also one of his team-mates. "Fundamentally, I love cycling, I'm not a Breton for nothing," he declared. "I haven't had the chance to talk to Arnaud yet, but I want to dedicate this win to him, because I train all the time with him, and that has remotivated me. Last year I drove him nuts telling him that I was going to attack on the Cte de l'Epan, but I was slightly blocked by [team-mate], Philippe Gilbert. I thought of that again this year when I arrived at the foot of that hill, and I decided that I was going to attack and that we would see what happens."
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