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Christophe Laurent ready for his new life with Slipstream
By Lyne Lamoureux
Date: 8/30/2007
Christophe Laurent ready for his new life with Slipstream

Crédit Agricole's Christophe Laurent is not only ready for a new experience with Team Slipstream, but he is looking forwards to an adventure.

I first met Crédit Agricole's Christophe Laurent at the Tour of California, in February 2007, where he won the King of the Mountains jersey. He "loved his experience at the Tour of California, the ambiance, the organization." So much so, that early in July, Christophe announced that he was leaving his french team, Crédit Agricole, and embarking on a new phase of his life with Team Slipstream.

Christophe Laurent being congratulated by the California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger
Copyright © Celia Cole, all rights reserved.

I caught up with Christophe while he was at home missing the Eneco Tour due to illness, and he explained his decision for this big change in his life.

The discussions with Jonathan Vaughters started at the Tour of California itself when "Jonathan server as my interpreted during the last press conference." The talks continued over the next months and as soon as "Jonathan was able to procure his budget and when a comparable salary was offered", Christophe "made his decision pretty quickly at that point, as I had been thinking about it for months". Christophe signed a two-year contract with Team Slipstream.

It was not an easy decision to make however, as leaving a team where he "felt confortable and such a prestigious team is not obvious." Christophe did ask himself many questions during this period, but he liked what Jonathan had to say. "With all the riders signed, we should be going to the big races. Jonathan seems to have a good relationship with the ASO, and if we do go to the Tour in 2008, I should be part of the team."

Jonathan Vaughters and Christophe Laurent at the final press conference of the Tour of California
Copyright © Celia Cole, all rights reserved.

Christophe Laurent is part of a rare breed of French cyclists that have chosen to engage in a new way of life on a non-French team. I asked him what made him different than his compatriots.

"Every year, I called into question my professional life as a pro cyclist. With no distress. I can always go back to my diploma and become a Sports Educator." (note Christophe has a diploma in Sports Sciences) "I had been thinking of signing with a non-french team for many years and had discussions with Spanish and Italian teams in the past." These discussions did not lead anywhere, but the idea had always been in Christophe's mind. "An American team however, that really interested me. I think an American team is more structured, the team really works together for one rider. On a French team, sometimes there is a bit of everyone for himself."

Christophe is not only ready for a new experience, he is embracing the change. "I am ready to live a new experience, I want to lean new ways of training, new ways of life, I want a new adventure abroad. I want to learn English, I want to participate in new races. Everything will change and I am looking forwards to it. I think that is why Jonathan contacted me because I was looking for a new experience".

A brief recap on how Christophe became a pro rider

"As a child, I didn't dream of becoming a pro cyclist. I started mountain biking at the age of seventeen and rode around with my friends." When one of his friends talked him into racing in the Regional Championships, Christophe won. He kept on riding, and winning in the following year. "To progress with mountain biking, I started training on the road following recommendations." After some months of riding on the road, his friend talked him into doing his first road race as a junior, and again he won.

For the next two years, he mixed it up between mountain biking and road, but in 1977, he focused solely on the road. Still for the next two years while he progressed and moved up to Elite 2, Christophe still didn't think he could become a pro rider.

At the end of the 1999 season, Christophe finished second as an Espoir at the French Championships and started to "think that maybe I could be a pro." Didier Roux then invited him to become a stagiaire with Crédit Agricole, where he met Jonathan Vaughters, Chris Boardman and Jens Voigt, where he "saw what it was like to be a pro cyclist and liked it."

But Christophe finished his studies, and turned pro at the 'old age' of 23 with the Jean Delatour team. On his first year, he won the Best Climber competition during the Tour de l'Avenir. He stayed with the organization when it became RAGT Semences-MG Rover, then moved to Agritubel in 2005, and Crédit Agricole in 2006.

Plans for the next months and year

On his calendar to finish up the 2007 season is the Tour of Poland in September. He had hoped to race in the Vuelta a Espana but his team decided otherwise. Christophe will then join his new teammates in November in the Bahamas and with a serious training camp in New Mexico to get ready for the next 2008 season. "I am ready to change everything in my preparation".

Christophe's goal for the 2008 season is pretty simple, first and foremost the Tour de France where he hopes his team will shine. He would also like to race the Tour de California again and experience the Tour de Georgia.

"When I first signed, I saw myself as a mentor for the younger riders, especially when racing in France", said Christophe when talking about his role on the team. "But now with the new big names, I see myself as a teammate, helping the team. And that is great. I could still help out the younger riders for some of the races."

Christophe will be moving from his home in the South of France, 200 km to the south to Girona, Spain, to "join his teammates." "My Spanish is as good as my English," a laughing Christophe told me, "but that it part and parcel of the experience"

Christophe Laurent at the Tour of California
Copyright © Celia Cole, all rights reserved.

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