Cofidis’s Damien Monier is a rider who you probably hadn’t heard of until the Giro when he won Stage 17, claiming the mountain stage into Peio Terme. From Clermont-Ferrand, the city bang in the centre of France famous for Michelin and its extinct volcanoes, he’d been a pro for six years but had only showed steady progress, nothing spectacular. Until the Giro, where a win is no fluke, you can’t win a mountain stage by chance. He’s confirming his abilities now as the top French rider on GC, currently 21st at just over ten minutes down on Andy Schleck.
What’s the secret of his success? Well Cofidis has a very good coach in Vincent Villerius. The Dutch sports scientist is a fan of power meters and is adept at getting the best out of his riders. Indeed many say Villerius’s arrival on the team was the reason Sylvain Chavanel stepped up to become a classics contender. Chavanel become a powerful rider able to win a classic, no longer the plucky rider who’d try all season long with countless attacks, hoping one day he’d get a break.
But Monier has an additional inspiration: his Chinese wife. Madame Monier was a visiting Chinese student at Clermont University and she got more than an education: two years ago they married.
Over the last winter she showed her husband a documentary on the Beijing Olympics and the Chinese athletes hoping to compete. Monier said it opened his eyes, he was impressed by the military-drill style training and the rigorous demands placed on Chinese athletes. He took away a belief that massive training volumes and a spartan lifestyle might give him a chance. Now don’t forget the life of a pro is already monk-like and a five hour ride is common. But Monier upped the distance significantly. As he put it, the aim was to make racing seem easy compared to a training camp or a few weeks at home. Now that’s a lot of rice.