Victor Lafay on breakthrough Tour de France and move to AG2R: "I was told the Tour can change your career, and I realise that more every day"

Victor Lafay was one of the surprises of the 2023 season, mostly due to his performances at the Tour de France's Grand Depart. His victory on stage 2 mainly put him on the spotlight and he's become a star in France and internationally too.

“In the first stage, I wasn't very happy because I had great legs and thought it was possible. In the end, I miscalculated and relied too much on [Jonas Vingegaard] when it was not in his interest to go for yellow," Lafay told L'Équipe. “The next day, I was frustrated, which allowed me to go for this victory. But the Yellow Jersey is something that I would really like to discover at least once in my life. This must be an extraordinary experience.”

His stage 1 performance was perhaps the most impressive of his career, but he had to settle with a minor result. On stage 2 to San Sebastián all pieces of the puzzle fit together for the 27-year old who attacked in the final kilometer, and this time around the lack of chase from Jonas Vingegaard ended up seeing him take the win - and the green jersey.

“I was super happy with this year on the team. They all gave me a lot, from my coach to the management, they trusted me and I appreciated it," he says of Cofidis, who he is leaving at the end of the season. "I was able to show them that they were right to do so. Above all, I had been at Cofidis for five and a half years and I felt that I needed, not to relaunch myself, but to get out of my comfort zone."

His performances however, despite not too many, were enough to see him surge to a reported to be of €1.5 million euro salary into the 2024 season as he's set to join AG2R Citroën Team. “They understood that I don't miss out on many of my goals. Those that I set for myself with Cofidis this season, I achieved, except perhaps the French National Championships."

He will be one of the leaders of the French team together with Felix Gall and Ben O'Connor, although he will likely have a focus on the hilly races. “When I put something on my mind, I respond. My goal in the coming years is to continue to progress. Each season so far, I have reached new levels.”

However a lot changed after his Tour de France, in terms of popularity, expectations and much more, as he explains: "What changed is that more results are expected from me. This was already the case before but, when you want to be consistent, you sometimes have to restrict yourself and not necessarily try crazy things like I did at the Tour. I'm quite fiery, I act a lot on instinct. I'm not going to think for hours about a strategy. If I smell something, I go for it."

"But at times, it's good to contain yourself too. There are days when I have legs of fire, others where physically it doesn't feel good at all. Some say it's in the head but not at all, I still have the same desire to win. Sometimes I go so far in pain that the next day I'm completely flat, I'm human.”

He's become somewhat of a star after the famous victory in San Sebastián, as he was invited to the Saitama Criterium where he was surprised with the reaction from fans.

“The Tour is huge and, when I arrived in Japan, lots of people asked me for selfies even though we were on the other side of the world. I was told the Tour can change your career, and I realize that more every day,"

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