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Roubaix in conclusion or in opening? The World Track Cycling Championships, which start on Wednesday at the northern velodrome, end the Olympic year and also kick off the Olympiad leading to Paris.
Three months after Tokyo and its disappointing record (2 bronze medals), French cycling receives the world elite by aiming much better. A larger number of events (22 against 12) and less important responsibilities open up the range of chances, starting with team speed from Wednesday.
“We are aiming for a place in the final”, announces national coach Herman Terryn, who aligns the medal-winning trio in Japan (Florian Grengbo, Sébastien Vigier, Rayan Helal) and intends to “reduce the gap with the Dutch”, dominators in the sprint .
French cycling, which has not yet made public its analysis of the Olympics – “we do not know the changes that could be made by the federation”, admits the sprint coach -, trusts his Tokyo holders. To Helal and Vigier for the individual speed and the keirin, to Mathilde Gros in the same women’s events with the hope that the Provençale can let go without being paralyzed by the stake.
“She will have the pressure but not like at the Olympics. Physically, she is good. If she is a little more liberated than at the Olympics, she will be in the game,” said Herman Terryn who recalls his third place in speed in the very recent European Championships in Granges (Switzerland).
– Shuffle the cards of endurance –
In the endurance group, national coach Steven Henry has chosen to reshuffle the cards. To give priority to individual events in the ladies’ category, even if it means skipping the team pursuit noted in great chronometric progress at the Olympic Games, and to orient the men on other events.
Benjamin Thomas, the only one to have won gold at previous Worlds in Berlin at the start of 2020, gave up his favorite omnium. It is in the points race, of which he will be one of the men to beat, in the American and obviously the team pursuit, the cornerstone of endurance events, that the Tarn will line up on the covered track. located a stone’s throw from the ancient velodrome which welcomes the arrival of Paris-Roubaix each year.
“Changing events allows you to keep motivation, to take pleasure in something else”, estimates Steven Henry who expects good performances from his group, in particular Thomas Boudat on elimination, an event newly included in the program of Worlds, and Donavan Grondin in the omnium (he was the 2018 junior world champion).
The team pursuit, which qualifies for Wednesday, will set the tone. Not qualified for the Olympics, the French chasers (Tabellion, Thomas, Denis, Boudat) face a high level of adversity, like the Italians and Danes who delivered a Homeric final in Tokyo to the final advantage of Filippo Ganna and of “azzurri”.
“We go there to perform without putting pressure on ourselves,” sums up the endurance trainer. “The level will be very high, we have the main headliners involved. But the post-Olympic championships are a bit special”.
They would have been even more so if the competitions had taken place in … Turkmenistan, the first choice of the International Cycling Union (UCI) which finally fell back on a European solution because of the health context.
© 2021 AFP