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France for the Worlds
 
By Andy McGrath
Date: 10/5/2003
France for the Worlds
 

It is always an honour for the riders who are first selected by their countries. This year, the first three riders selected by Charly Berard, the French team selector for the Hamilton 2003 World Championships were the evergreen 1997 rainbow jersey-getter Laurent Brochard, another red-hot veteran Cedric Vasseur and one for the future, recent GP Plouay winner Andy Flickinger. However, the rest of the team is just as strong and has much depth – the top Frenchman might not be one of this trio.

Recently, I made a poll on the French section of the cycling forum at Cyanide asking 'Who will be the best French rider at Hamilton?' There were five options, here are the results:

1. Cedric Vasseur - 40% of the vote
2. Sylvain Chavanel - 22%
3. Laurent Brochard - 18%
4. Patrice Halgand - 13%
5. David Moncoutie - 4%
97% percent total (!!)

French Elite Men's World Time Trial Roster (3 riders)

Eddy Seigneur
Team: Jean Delatour
Age: 34
Seigneur has years of experience to bank on here, but he'll be fortunate to finish in the top 10, even with the French TT champion's jersey on his back. He finished 17th out of 23 in the GP Nations, 5 minutes back, although this should be an enjoyable experience for Seigneur in what is probably his penultimate year as a pro.

Phillipe Gaumont
Team: Cofidis
Age: 30
Gaumont, whilst his selection in this event is still unsure, has not won since 1998. His form is unknown, and it is unlikely he will make the top 20 - again, he will have to saviour and take in the Hamilton moment whilst he can.

Sylvain Chavanel
Information below, in road race details.

French Elite Men’s World Road Race Roster (12 riders)

Cedric Vasseur
Team: Cofidis
Age: 33
Likely Team Position: Co-Leader
Vasseur is the ‘Flying Frenchman’ at the moment: his form is absolutely scorching. Within a month and a bit, he won three overall competitions (all 2.3 races: Paris-Correze, Tour du Limousin and the International Bayern Rundfahrt) and stages in those races, barring the Tour du Limousin. Matched with an opportunistic stage win in the summer, in the Dauphine Libere, Vasseur has the complete package. He could be a very good outside bet, although may be lost if he’s up there in the final kilometres because he’s won few big races. His sprint also isn’t fabulous, and men like Bettini and Freire will surely beat him if it ends in a group gallop. Nonetheless, if he can hold his form, this man is France’s best hope.

David Moncoutie
Team: Cofidis
Age: 28
Likely Position: Attacker/Co-Leader
Moncoutie is one of the top climbers in France, and although he had a rather ananomous Tour de France this year (having been top Frenchman in 2002), that isn’t to say he’s had a bad season. The Cofidis man, who unusually lives in Paris, won three times including atop Mont Faron in the Tour du Med and also at the summit of Bales, an unused before 2003 Pyrenean climb, in the Route du Sud. This parcours suits him quite well, and though his form is unknown (and even when known can be erratic), he’s not a man who’s afraid to have a go and could be an early attacker. If Vasseur falters in anyway, it will be Moncoutie who takes on the leader’s mantle.

Frederic Bessy
Team: Cofidis
Age: 31
Likely Position: Helper
Although this man has only been with the top French team Cofidis for only a year, he could be indispensable to his clubmate’s chances in Hamilton. As well as a tireless domestique, Bessy also knows Vasseur and Moncoutie better than the other riders. If those two get in a favourable position, it could be Bessy who makes some tactical manoeuvres to aid them. Bessy also recently came 13th in the 1.2 Paris-Bourges, which shows he’s in good preparation.

Laurent Brochard
Team: Ag2r Prevoyance
Age: 35
Likely Position: Attacker
This year, the long-haired legend that is Laurent Brochard has turned back the clock putting in countless amazing performances, winning four times and scoring many UCI points elsewhere too. As the team’s most experienced performer, having ridden since 1992 and Castorama, it looks very unlikely that he can replicate his 1997 Worlds victory here. However, with very suspect form after a whirlwind first half of the season, a top 20 place here might prove too difficult for Brochard. As the last Frenchman to don the rainbow jersey, he will want to see someone in the French team if not himself win.

Andy Flickinger
Team: Ag2r Prevoyance
Age: 24
Likely Position: Experience
Since he won the GP Plouay, the French cycling community has been chatting eagerly about Andy Flickinger and his considerable promise. Although his Ploauy victory was rather out-of-the-blue, it shows he has the talent to go far. Flickinger is by no means a bad climber too, having finished 39th overall in the centenary Tour this summer. He was very flattered to be one of the first three on the French teamsheet, but noted duly “It allows me to prepare tranquilly for the event without being obliged to prove myself capable of representing France well” (extract from the latest Cyclesport). Whatever he does here, he will gain more valuable experience.

Sylvain Chavanel
Team: Brioches la Boulangere
Age: 24
Likely Position: Co-Leader
‘Mimo’ has had another good year, despite a poor Tour showing. This young man was one of the reasons why Brioches la Boulangere were selected, although his 37th finish overall wasn’t as high as expected. However, he came 5km away from what would have been a brilliant victory, on Luz Ardiden. He deserved as much, but the favourites behind were having one of the most exciting dogfights in Tour history. As we saw that day, he can climb well and he seems to be getting ready to peak for Hamilton: 5th in Paris-Bourges on Friday is a very encouraging result, as well as 9th overall in Paris-Correze (where three other French team members filled the top three places!). Chavanel will also be riding the time trial, although he might be saving his efforts for a road race onslaught.

Maryan Hary
Team: Brioches la Boulangere
Age: 23
Likely Position: Experience
Hary has had an excellent first pro-season at Brioches la Boulangere – having advanced from the ranks of Vendee-U, he won the second stage of the Tour de l’Ain and has been in several menacing breaks. Although he is one of the best placed neo-pros in the UCI ranks this year, it was a surprise for Hary to be selected. Nonetheless, he will gain valuable experience from Hamilton.

Franck Renier
Team: Brioches la Boulangere
Age: 28
Likely Position: Domestique/Attacker
Franck Renier, although with only one win in his palmares, is a very reliable rider – he is very aggressive yet will always work to chase down breaks or bring water bottles. His consistency is probably why he will be in French colours (and in Brioches la Boulangere colours for 2004, again). Recently, Renier was narrowly outgunned by Jan Koerts in the GP Isbergues, and had to settle for second.

Samuel Dumoulin
Team: Jean Delatour
Age: 23
Likely Position: Domestique/Experience
Dumoulin is one of the next generation who has been slightly overlooked as a future star – I think he will be. This year, he won the Tour of Normandie overall, the Tro Bro Leon (over gravel roads) and two stages in the Tour de l’Avenir as well as third overall. Dumoulin, whilst not a great climber, has a very fast sprint on him. Maybe in the future on flatter courses, French hopes could be riding on him. In Hamilton, he’ll probably be riding for Vasseur, Chavanel or teammate Halgand (if he gets the chance).

Patrice Halgand
Team: Jean Delatour
Age: 29
Likely Position: Attacker
Halgand, after several wins including a Tour stage in 2002, has had a winless 2003 to date, as he and Jean Delatour have struggled to stay afloat in the rough sea that is Division I. However, like several of this French squad, he looks to be coming into good form, following fourth place overall in Paris-Correze. Halgand will be lucky to take on a leader’s role though, as other riders will be rated above him by Charly Berard.

Nicolas Fritsch
Age: 24
Team: fdjeux.com
Likely Position: Domestique
Nicolas Fritsch (a very strange name for a Frenchman, which could be mistaken for frites which means chips in his home tongue) announced himself to the cycling world when he took third at the 2002 Tour of Switzerland. However, since then, he has been quiet. Only in September has Fritsch broken through, obtaining his first two pro wins – one in the 1.5 Tour du Finistere and another from a strong break on Stage 3 of Paris-Correze. Although he can climb, it is likely Fritsch will be one of the top climbing domestiques for the French leader.

Christophe Rinero
Team: MBK-Oktos
Age: 29
Likely Position: Attacker/Domestique
How the mighty have fallen… Aged only 24, Rinero took 4th and the mountains jersey in the drug-riddled ‘Festina Tour’ of 1998. However, since then he’s only had win (in 2002) and has ended up, albeit as leader, at Div II French outfit MBK-Oktos. However, he is another man in good form after finishing second to Vasseur overall in Paris-Correze. As the only Div II rider in the French squad, Rinero will be wanting to show himself and get back to a top team.


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