Former team boss and former France team coach Cyrille Guimard is following the Tour for RMC. According to the former sports director with 7 victories on the Grande Boucle (with Van Impe, Hinault and Fignon), at a time when the new leaders of the peloton are under 23 years old, the future of French cycling looks bleak for a long time. The first French, Guillaume Martin (Cofidis), is 11th overall.
New talents under 23 are already shining on the Tour and the French succession seems non-existent …
CYRILLE GUIMARD. It is worrying to see young people reaching the top level of cycling and not having French people. In football, kids, we train them, and some are even in the French team at 17 years old. I had alerted to this for a long time. In cycling, we see, in some countries, kids leaving under 19 and going directly to the pros without going through the hopeful box. We don’t have anyone.
Are the others smarter than us?
I’m going to start a controversy again, but we have a big structural problem. Why are we so bad? It is urgent to change the whole formation. And from 8-10 years old! We do daycare in cycling schools. The high level, who cares. The problem is that as soon as you want to change something, everyone tells you no. There is no generational chance. When guys get to the top at 20, it’s because they’ve been trained for it.
What are the right questions to ask?
We just have to recognize that the French training is archaic and antiquated. We do not know how to develop the qualities of our young people. This is not the problem of the professional world but of the federation. There is no relationship between the two. Yet we could do it. But we must start from a blank sheet.
How to get French Pogacar, Evenepoel or Van Aert?
Change this unsuitable system. French cycling is hitting the wall and no one is moving. It is not for lack of wanting to explain it when I was coach. You know the rest, I am no longer (laughs) !
For the Tour de France, how long can we hope for before having a potential winner?
I am very pessimistic for a long time. Find me an 18-19 year old prospect today who has this potential. There are not any. We are only at the beginning of the desert. Bernal, Mathieu Van der Poel or Van Aert cut their teeth in cyclo-cross. The best come from there. In this discipline, how many riders do we have capable of making a Top 10 in a World Cup stage? Only one, Antoine Benoist and, as if by chance, he runs for the Belgian team of Van der Poel!
How do you explain it?
Two years ago, I asked federal officials to meet to see how to improve French performance in cyclo-cross. I was told: “The priority is track cycling”… I stopped talking. You really have to ask yourself the right questions because, in fact, we are not going against the wall. We are already there. An example: during the last championships in Brittany, all categories combined, we had 44 participants. It’s dramatic.
Should we explain to the French public that it is not about to see a next French winner of the Tour?
Winner? But even a candidate for a podium, it is impossible as long as we do not modify the work at the base. And even so, it will take time. We see a lot of very good Colombians on the Tour. Do you think this is chance? No, there, they work better than us on young people.
Is French cycling in the second division?
Without incident, we could aim for a Top 5. No more. If we kidnap Alaphilippe, who runs among the Belgians and has passed, as if by chance, by the cyclo-Cross, Pinot and Bardet who are not at the party, what remains? David Gaudu, Valentin Madouas and Benoit Cosnefroy, but not to win the Tour. It’s not optimistic, but you shouldn’t tell people fables.