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French Send Young and Old to Zolder by Nick Bull
 
By Janna Trevisanut
Date: 10/8/2002
French Send Young and Old to Zolder by Nick Bull
 

The French cycling Federation announced their squad for the World Championships, and they will look to their mixed bag of riders to try and deliver a good result. This, however, could be difficult, as the course at Zolder is notoriously flat, and the French don't have a sprinter who could challenge the elite fastmen such as Cipollini, Zabel & Freire. Despite this, there is no doubt that the country has some of the World's best riders competing for them. Surprisingly, Patrice Halgand and Didier Rous were not selected for the team.

Men's Road Race

Team Leaders
The most experienced rider is Laurent Jalabert. Born on the 30th November 1968, JaJa has been either the best, or one of the best French riders for the over ten years. He started his career at Toshiba (1989 - 1991) before moving to the Spanish ONCE team in 1992 where he stayed until the year 2000. His current team, CSC - Tiscali, will be where he finishes his thirteen year career, in which he has amassed over 160 victories. He has worn the Maillot Jaune in the Tour de France, and, in the same event, he has won the Green Jersey twice (1992 and 1995) and has won the King Of The Mountains competition for the last two years. Laurent has also won a handful of stages in the Grande Boucle.

His mixture of talents was evident in 1995, when he won 22 times in a season. The successes included winning the GC, the Mountains and Points Jersey and five stages in the Tour of Spain, the Milan- San Remo, the Flèche Wallonne one day race and the Paris-Nice to name a few. He was the most successful rider of the year. He won Paris Nice again in 1996 (and also 1997) and again was the most successful rider of the year. During the Paris-Nice race, Lance Armstrong told the press " When Jalabert jumps, it is impossible to follow him, I don't yet have that kind of acceleration." 1997 was another excellent year, as Jalabert was the World Time Trial Champion. 1998 was not as good as the preceding seasons, but he still added the Tour du Haut-Var and the Vuelta a Asturias to his palmares list. Racing as the French road race champion in 1999, the Frenchman showed that he could still race over three weeks, finishing fourth in a very mountainous edition of the Giro d'Italia. Success occurred in the Tour of the Basque Country, the Tour of Romandie and the Setmana Catalonia. He triumphed in the Setmana Catalonia race again in the year 2000, where he wore the Yellow Jersey in the Tour de France.

After he joined CSC in 2001, he began to compete in more French races, which endeared him more to his home crowd. Whilst riding for ONCE team, he lost touch with his French followers. During the year's Tour de France, Jalabert was away in several breakaways, which helped him to win two stages (one on Bastille Day) and the King of the Mountains prize, where he joined an elite club of riders who had won the Green and Polka Dot jerseys in the Tour de France (one of the other riders is, unsurprisingly, Eddy Merckx).

2002 has been another good year, despite it being Laurent's last year as a pro. There was success in the TdF, as he retained his King of the Mountains title, and was very close to winning the opening prologue of the race in Luxembourg, but Lance Armstrong beat him by a small margin.

VERDICT: Despite being a capable sprinter, his crash in 1994 in a bunch sprint ruined his confidence. Because of this, he doesn't participate in group finishes. If he is in a breakaway that stays away to the finish, you wouldn't bet against him, unless someone with a better finish is in the group.

Another experienced rider is Richard Virenque. Born in 1969, Richard was seen as a potential Tour de France winner when he turned pro for RMO in 1991. It was evident to many that the rider's climbing abilities were excellent, though he was not the best time trialist. Virenque did manage to wear the Maillot Jaune in the Tour, but it was only for one day. 1993 saw a move to one of the top teams in the Peloton- Festina. It was here the Richard developed and matured, and he's got the results to prove it. He completed the Tour de France in 1993, finishing in 19th place. The next year he won a stage in the race, up to the top of Luz-Ardiden. This helped him become King of the Mountains, a title that he also won in 1995, 1996, 1997 and 1999. By the end of 1995, he was ranked twelfth in the World. That season he won two stages in the Critérium du Dauphiné-Libéré (Carpentras, Vaujany), and a stage in the Tour de France (Cauterets). He came second in the Grand Prix Midi-Libre and sixth in the World Championships.

Over the next two years, "Dickie" performed brilliantly in some of the hardest races on the European calendar. In 1996, he won a stage of the Critérium du Dauphiné-Libéré up to the summit of Mont-Ventoux, 3rd in the Tour de France, 5th in the Olympic Games and World Championships Road Races, 8th in Liège- Bastogne- Liège. 1997 saw another stage of the Tour de France added to his collection (and a second place in that race), along with fine displays in some of the one-day classics.

1998 had started well, until a Festina team doctor was stopped at a customs checkpoint in France. He was found in possession of performance enhancing drugs. A week later, at the end of week one in the Tour de France, the whole of the Festina team were excluded from the race. At the time, Virenque denied ever taking substances such as EPO, but he confessed that he did take illegal drugs in 2000, during a court case. He was banned from racing until midway in 2001. At the time, he was riding for Team Polti who had signed him in 1999. During his time at the team, he won a stage of the Giro d'Italia and eight overall in the TdF. When Polti announced their withdrawal from Cycling at the end of the 2000 season, Virenque was without a team. He was signed by Domo- Farm Frites in the summer of 2001, after his suspension had run out.

He soon repaid Patrick Lefevre's faith in him, as he won the 2001 Paris- Tours race in exceptional style. Breaking away early with well-known escapee Jackie Durand, Richard launched an attack on a small climb near the finish, which was enough to drop Durand, and kept him away from the Peloton, who were less than thirty seconds behind the two at the start of the slight incline. Because of that win, he was seen as a major threat to win the World Championships Road Race in Lisbon. Attempts to breakaway weren't successful, but he did finish inside the top thirty-five after the sprint finish.

This year has passed quite quietly, with Virenque trying to ride well in the Tour de France. Finishing the race in sixteenth place, he will be remembered for his stage win up to the summit of the fearsome Mont Ventoux. With the Paris- Tours race coming soon, Virenque may add that to his palmares. What he would really like is to be World Champion.

VERDICT: On a flat course he surely can't win...can't he?? People would have said the same before the Paris- Tours race last year. You never know in bike racing.

The final team leader is Laurent Brochard, who rode with Virenque for five years. Brochard (who is currently riding for the Jean Delatour team) turned pro in 1992 with the Castorama team. It was there that he won races such as the Regio Tour. After the team's demise at the end of the 1994, he joined the Festina team. With the team, he became the 1997 World Champion at San Sebastian, and he won races such as the Tour du Limousin (1996), along with one stage of Tour de France 1997 (Loudenvielle-Vallée du Louron), four stages of the Grand Prix du Midi-Libre (Alès 1997, Sète 1997 and 1998, Millau 1997), two stages of the Tour Méditerranéen (Vitrolles 1992, St Laurent du Var 1993) and one stage of Circuit de La Sarthe 1994 (La Flèche) to name a few.

Like Virenque, Laurent was heavily involved in the Doping scandal that hit the Festina team in the Tour de France in 1998. Despite this, he was able to find a team to ride for in 1999, after he decided that he needed a new start. He had a few options- all of them from French teams- and he ended up choosing the new Jean Delatour team, who were looking for an experienced team leader: Brochard was what the rider that team wanted, so he was signed.

The 2000 season started off well, as Brochard took the lead in the Paris- Nice race. He kept the leader's white jersey until the penultamate stage, the Col d'Eze time trial. He rode to his limit (coming second on the stage), but lost the jersey to Andreas Kloden, who went on to win the race. Laurent finish second. He did win a handful of races in 2000: the Route Adélie, Paris-Bourges, and a time trial in the Critérium International. The first two wins on the list helped him to finish second in the Coupe de France (a handful of one day races that award points like the World Cup). He was a member of the French team for the Olympic Games and the World Championships.

His best win in 2001 was finishing first in the Coupe de France; other wins included Grand Prix de Villers-Cotterêts, the Paris-Camembert and a stage in the Circuit de la Sarthe. Like many previous years, he rode in the World Championships, held in Lisbon.

Brochard has recorded a few success this season, winning the Regio Tour (and a stage), a stage in the Tour of Poland and a stage in the Midi Libre (Mt St Clair).

VERDICT: A wealth of experience, a good all round talent. He has finished many of the Road Races in the World Championships- including a fine win in 1997- so he could play a part of a flat course, which he seems to like.

Team Riders

Andy Flickinger (AG2R)
Flickinger is one of the team's best domestiques. Measuring nearly two metres in height, he is able to pull a group along at 40 miles an hour. If a dangerous group is leading a main pack, and the French decide they want to do something about the leaders, Andy is one of the men that the team will look upon. In his four year career, he has ridden for Casino, Festina and Ag2r, and his best result came last year (whilst at Festina) when he finished second in the French national championships road race.

VERDICT: A strong rider who is a good team worker. Expect to see him at the front of the peloton, and, perhaps, in a breakaway group. However, he doesn’t have the strongest sprint, so his chance of success is rather limited.

Franck Rénier (Bonjour)
Twenty-eight year old Rénier is a very talented rider, and has posted several strong finishes in some of the hardest one day classics. Wins in 1999 included the Paris-Auxerre and the Grand Prix de la Ville de Morteau races. The following year he came fifth tenth place in the GP de Plouay, over the course on which the 2000 World Championships road race took place. Last year he won the Tour du Finistère. This season, he finished the Tour de France in 85th place, and came 7th in Paris-Corrèze.

VERDICT: Rather slim, as he’ll probably be riding for the team leaders. A rider who has good all round abilities, but a strong sprint will most likely be needed if a rider wants to finish well: Rénier is not known to have a strong sprint.

Cédric Vasseur (Cofidis)
Who will ever forget Vasseur for his ride in the 1997. Breaking away early into the stage to La Châtre, Vassuer not only stayed in front of the Peloton and won the stage, but also gained enough time to take the leader's yellow jersey, which he kept for five days. Always a talented rider, Cédric was noticed by Gan after his 1993 season, in which he won a stage in the Tour de l’Avenir. In 1996, he won a stage in the Midi- Libre and finished 15th in the Het Volk, 17th in the Tour des Flanders and 69th in the Tour de France. 1997 was his most successful year, as the rider put in good rides in the World Championships, the Tour of Spain, the Tour de France and in the Tour du Limousin.

He stayed with the same team for 1998 and 1999 (now Gan were known as Credit Agricole), but an offer to join the US Postal team for the 2000 season was enough to take him to the American team, who had 1999 Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong riding for them. One reason for joining the team were because of promises that he would ride the Tour de France: a promise that was kept in 2000, when he was part of the team that helped Armstrong win his second Tour. However, the relationship with team director-sportif, Johan Bruyneel, turned sour when he was left out of the squad for the 2001 edition of the three week race. Angry and fed up with the team, Vassuer looked elsewhere for a ride in the 2002 season. The French Cofidis took the rider on, and his results have been quite encouraging: he won the GP d'Isbergues, 6th in the Paris-Bourges, and 55th in the TdF.

VERDICT: Vasseur has never reached the heights of 1997, probably because he's been a marked man since the long breakaway in the Grande Boucle. However, depending on his role in the team, he might be seen in a leading group, and something excellent might happen to the rider who has a high level unfullfilled ability.

Pierrick Fédrigo (Crédit Agricole)
Pierrick is a rider of huge ability, which was proved by his second place overall finish in this years Tour de l'Avenir. However, he is more of a climber than a sprinter, so might not be seen in much of the action come Sunday. He signed for Roger Legay's Credit Agricole team in late 1999, after spending time at the small CC Marmadais team. In his two years as a pro, he has been looked after by many people, and has gradually become a better rider. This year has been Fédrigo's best, with good showings coming in the Tour du Limousin and the GP d'Isbergues.

VERDICT: The 22 year old has had a good season, and will be delighted with his selection into the squad for the Championships. He doesn't think he's the best sprinter, so don't expect him to beat the big hitters.

Christophe Moreau (Crédit Agricole)
Moreau is a very good rider who can climb and time trial very well, which were some of the reasons why he was snapped up by the Crédit Agricole team for this season. His objectives were to finish on the podium in the Tour de France, but several early crashes (and an incident with Carlos Sastre on the stage to the Plateau de Beille) destroyed his confidence, and he retired on stage 15.

Since starting his Professional career with Festina in 1995, Moreau has promised a lot, and some say he has underachieved. As a young rider, he finished second in the Tour de L'Avenir, and nearly won the National Championships Road Race in his first season. All his stage wins in 1996 were Time Trials, and he represented France in the World Championships in that discipline. 1997 was a good year, one of Moreau's best, as he rode brilliantly in European races such as the Paris-Nice, the Tour Méditerranéen, the Dauphiné Libéré and the Tour de France, where he finished in nineteenth in only his second ride in the race.

Like some of the other riders in the team, he was part of the 1998 Doping scandal. Riding for Festina, Christophe was excluded from the race on stage seven. Like Laurent Brochard, Moreau stayed with the team for 1999 and rode the TdF despite the problems of the previous year, and came twenty- seventh overall. His wins in the season were a stage in the Route du Sud and the Poitou Charente (along with first overall in the second aforementioned race).

Moreau worked very hard in the winter of 2000 in an attempt to compete and be successful in three week tours- something that many said he was capable of. Being a tall rider, he lost a lot of time in the Mountains, so trained a lot at altitude. In the Tour de France, he limited his losses on the tough Pyrenean and Alps stages, and he finished the three week race in fourth place, only a few seconds behind his team-mate Joesba Beloki. Part of his fourth place were strong showings in the Time Trials. Christophe's only win this year was a stage in the Poitou Charente.

Both rider and team set their sights high for the 2001 campaign, hoping that the Frenchman would finish on the podium of the Tour. Preparations went well, as he won the Dauphiné Libéré, which takes place a month before the Tour. In the Tour's prologue, a course in Dunkirk, Moreau set an excellent time which no-one managed to beat. He was to wear the yellow jersey for the first time in his career. He kept it until stage two, when the stage finished in Belgium. He was riding reasonably well in the first mountain stages in the Alps, but he was forced to retire on the first Pyrenean stage, a victim of illness. His season did finish well, as he won the GP Breitling Time Trial with team-mate Florent Brard.

He swapped teams for 2002, joining Crédit Agricole. His only win has been a stage in the Four Days of Dunkerque. He had a dreadful time in the Tour de France, losing a lot of time due to crashes. Moreau will ride the Time Trial and the Road Race

VERDICT: Described by many as a "dangerous rider," Moreau might have already seen his best years. Not selected as a team leader, so will have to work hard for Jalabert, Virenque and Brochard in the Road Race, but is confident of a medal in the Time Trial.

Nicolas Jalabert (CSC Tiscali)
Nicolas has always been in the shadow of his older brother, and has only a handful of races. He turned professional in 1995 with the small French team Mutuelle De Seine Et Marne, and he won his first race in 1995: the Mi-Août Bretonne. In 1996, he won the Grand Prix de Rennes and a stage in the Tour de L’Avenir (Parthenay). Snapped up by the Cofidis squad in 1997, he repeated his win in the GP de Rennes. His best win was taking the Coupe de France, helped with wins in the Route Adélie and the Grand Prix de Rennes. He was signed by ONCE to ride alongside brother Laurent in 2000.

After his year at the Spanish team, he left (with Laurent) to join the CSC World Online team (which were renamed CSC Tiscali before the TDF). His best results with the team have come this year, when Nicolas finished 21st in the Tour of Flanders and second in the French National Championships.

VERDICT: Will always be remembered for being the brother to Laurent, Nicolas will have to start winning races if he wants to stay at a Division One team for next season.

Jimmy Casper (FDJeux.com)
A professional since 1998, Jimmy Casper has proved that he is a good sprinter, but many believe that he hasn't reached his full potential. Born in 1978, Casper rode just one season (1997) in the amatuer ranks (for Vélo Club St Quentin), winning the Junior Loire Atlantique and a stage in the 2 days of Machecoule. He also finished 22ne in the Junior World Championships Road Race at San Sebastien. After turning pro with La Française des Jeux in 1998, he had to wait until his second season with the French team before taking his first win, which was a stage in the Four days of Dunkerque. By June he was showing some of the World's best sprinters how to finish by winning four stages in the Tour of Germany- beating Eric Zabel in each of those stages, which he describes as the best thing he has ever done on the bike.

Casper was picked in the team to ride the Tour de France, which was perhaps a bad decision by Marc Madiot, the FDJ Director Sportif. He finished fifth on stage two, but retired on stage nine. 2000 was a quiet season, 2001 was a bit more eventful, as he won stages in the Tour Méditerranéen, Circuit des Mines, Route du Sud and the Tour du Poitou-Charentes. He also finished third on a stage in the Tour de France, and also completed the three week race for the first time in 144th position. This season he has won the GP de Cholet-Pays-de-Loire.

VERDICT: A strong sprinter who has proved he can match the best, but has yet to win anything big. Perhaps this will be his best chance to take the Rainbow Jersey.

Jacky Durand (FDJeux.com)
Like Christophe Moreau, Durand will be riding both the Time Trial and the Road Race. His pro career started in 1990, when Castorama signed him after eight successful seasons with the CC Renazé - Antony Berny amateur team. In only his second season as a pro he won the Grand Prix d'Isbergues, which is one of the most important one-day races in France. He won the Tour of Flanders, which is one of the hardest races in the World, in 1992, after a solo breakaway which lasted for over 200 kilometers (which Jackie thinks is his best ride of his life). Becoming the champion of France in 1993 made the French adore him even more, and he became a national hero in 1994 after he won National Jersey for the second time in two seasons and a stage in the Tour de France (Bergerac-Cahors).

In wet conditions, DuDu (as he is known by the French) won the 1995 Tour de France prologue, thus taking the leader's yellow jersey, which he wore for the opening two stages. In the same year he won a stage in the Midi- Libre. Castorama left the peloton at the end of the season, so Durand moved to the French Agrigel team. Durand didn't win anything, and was also found positive in a drug test. He served a suspension, and joined the Casino team in 1997, where the happier times started again.

1998 was one of, if not, Durand's best year as a pro rider. He won a stage of the Tour de France into Montauban and the Paris- Tours World Cup race. He also won a stage of the Tour de Pologne and finished second overall, and finished the World Championships Road Race in Valkenburg in sixteenth place.

For the 1999 and 2000 season, Jackie rode for the Lotto team. In 1999 he won a stage in the Paris-Nice and the Combativity award in the Tour de France. He also wore the Maillot amarillo in the Vuelta a Espana for two stages. He nearly became French national champion for the third time in 2000, but ended up coming second. He did win the Tro bro Léon, the Mountains jersey in the Four days of Dunkerque and wore the equivalent jersey in the Tour de France for a stage.

For the last two seasons, Durand has ridden for La Française des Jeux team, which were renamed FDJeux.com for this season. His best result this season was a second place in the Tour de Picardie. He was disqualified from the TdF for holding onto a team car, which was a shame as the race needed someone like him to liven the stages.

VERDICT: Breakaway King, expect to see him in a leading group at some stage during the race. In the Time Trial, he'll do his best, which will probably seen him finish in the top twenty.

Nicolas Vogondy (Fdjeux.com)
Along with team-mate Sandy Casar, Vogondy has to be the best French rider for the future. He became an amateur at the VC St. Aignan team when he was ten, and in 1996 he finished ninth in both the World's Time Trial and Road Race. He turned professional in 1997 with the La Française des Jeux, and the team have looked after him brilliantly ever since, making sure that he was not overraced in his younger years as a pro. His first ever pro win came in his debut season, as he won the Tour de Normandie. He also finished fifth in the Tour de l’Avenir.

The next three seasons were all part of the learning process, but, in 1998, he finished twenty- second in the French Championships Road Race. In 2001, he started to progress and began to pick up results in some of the prestigious French races. He came second on a stage in the Circuit de la Sarthe, 4th in the French Championship (on the road) and 5th in the Paris-Bourges.

At the start of this season, Marc Madiot told L'Equipe that this was the season in which Vogondy would make his name. Seven months on, he was right, as Vogondy has had an exceptional season. The start of the success was in June, as Nicolas finally won the French National Champion jersey. He also placed well in the Classique des Alpes and the Dauphiné Libéré. By the end of July, Vogondy had become well know around the World after finishing his second Tour de France in nineteenth place, just over half and hour down on the race winner Lance Armstrong. On the tough stage up to the summit of the Mont Ventoux, he only lost six minutes to Armstrong, who was in sensational form that day, and finished just 8'37 down on stage winner Richard Virenque. The French now have high hopes for him, and he might want to repay the faith shown in him by many people by posting a good ride in the Road Race on Sunday.

VERDICT: One for the future, Vogondy has shown he can be National champion, so he has the potential to become World Champion one day. This year?? I don't think so, the course doesn't suit him as well as it suits others. Also, he's not one of the team leaders. But that didn't stop Oscar Freire in 1999.

Men's Time Trial

Jacky Durand and Christophe Moreau are competing in the Time Trial and the Road Race. Their profiles are in the Road Race Team Riders section.

 
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