After a first day of qualifying on Thursday 11 August, it’s time for the first finals of the European Track Cycling Championships in Munich. Between the absence of favourites, a busy schedule and a new generation of women, the French could create surprises according to François Pervis, a seven-time world champion in track cycling and consultant for France Télévisions. A successful competition would add some color to the French track two years before the Paris Games.
Franceinfo: sport: What do you expect from these European Championships?
Francois Pervis: They go down relatively poorly and aren’t really a target for the heavy favorites in each nation. One of the most notorious examples is the absence of Dutchman Harrie Lavreysen [champion olympique de vitesse individuelle et par équipes lors des Jeux de Tokyo et nonuple champion du monde]who skips the individual and only participates in the team speed test.
Various reasons for this: the track and the busy schedule. The Munich velodrome is a mobile structure, built especially for the occasion. The track is shorter than usual, it is only 200 meters compared to 250 meters in other competitions. Runners are going faster and falls are potentially more dangerous. Some do not want to take risks, while the World Cup is played in two months [du 12 au 16 octobre à Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines, là où se dérouleront les épreuves de Paris 2024]. The leaders participating in Munich take the Championship as it comes. But it’s hard to have a peak of form in mid-August and then two months later. They are currently in the middle of the intensive work phase for the World Cup, which causes a lot of fatigue.
who says absente de cadors says opportunity for others to shine…
Absolutely. Some “first elite” cyclists jump the line and are replaced by youngsters who give 100% because they know they won’t make it to the World Championships. The “Europes” are therefore your big deadline of the year. This softens the opposing forces and this is how strangers can create surprises.
Among the French, you can count on [Sébastien] vigilant and [Rayan] Helal, and then Mathilde Gros to individually resonate the Marseillaise. It is also interesting to see that Mathilde is no longer alone among women, as she was for a long time. The women’s team is rejuvenated, some girls have just left the European hopes in which they shone [Julie Michaux, argent en vitesse individuelle, et Marie-Divine Kouamé, triplement médaillée à Anadia dont un l’or sur le 500 m contre-la-montre]. Promise for them.
France has long been a dominant nation on the track, with a golden era in the late 1990s and early 2000s…
At that time, we were ahead of the infrastructure. We had two poles from France in Insep and Hyères, while the other countries had meetings here and there. The trainers [le tandem Daniel Morelon et Gérard Quintyn] he had decided to incorporate strength training into his training. In sprinting, you need strength and explosiveness. It worked, we began to have good results. [première nation aux classements des médailles des championnats du monde entre 1994 et 1999, douze médailles dont huit titres aux Jeux olympiques de 1996 et de 2000]. We were also ahead in terms of equipment with the Look signature and the first carbon bikes. All this made us collect medals. We were everyone’s favorite hobby. In individual sprint at the 2001 World Championships, the French are 1, 2, 3. It is something unimaginable today.
“French federal policy is quite catastrophic in terms of detection”Francois Pervis
Precisely, since 2012, the French track has returned to the ranks. How do you explain this shortness of breath?
France has rested on its laurels and is no longer scary. No attempt was made to optimize performance. We were happy to keep up with our level, but eventually the others caught up with us and even overtook us. Levels tightened everywhere. Even small nations are doing very well; India, in particular, has made great strides. Some nations have turned entirely to technological improvement. Look at the British, who work with engineers from Lotus or Mclaren, they have incredible budgets. It is difficult to compete with them.
We fight with our guns: three or four years ago our sprint budget was around €130,000 when the British shelled out £17m. With this money, they focus on research and development and the quality of the staff. French federal policy is quite catastrophic in terms of detection. We no longer know how to do it. Two years ago, someone from the federation told me that he couldn’t do anything about detection, because he didn’t have the means.
However, the World Championships take place two years in a row in France (Roubaix in 2021, Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines this year). We cannot say that we lack infrastructure.
Is not true. Especially as there are many beautiful covered velodrome projects in France in Loudéac, around Besançon, Essarts, Angers. Recently there is a velodrome that came out in Laval. The World Championships in 2027 have not yet been awarded, but the Rhône-Alpes region has positioned itself; in any case, local elected officials have expressed their agreement to build a velodrome. All of this means we will get people back on track, find nuggets, and get back to being a competitive nation.
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