Saturday, October 23, 2010

Why Romain Sicard is France's saviour

The title of this post suggests I'm doing exactly the same thing as I've criticized the French press for doing time and time again when a young and talented French rider raises to prominence on the youth scene and goes pro: lauding him as the next Hinault, the next Jalabert, the next winner of the Tour, France's Messiah who can finally bring glory back to a country starved on Tour success since those heady days of Messrs. Thévenet, Fignon, Hinault et al. But make no mistake, Romain Sicard is not just another Di Gregorio, another Chavanel, another Rinero. Sicard is the real deal.

Sicard's achievements on the youth circuit are well documented. They're impressive. But so too were a lot of French riders' a few years back, and for one reason or another the majority of those have gone from a spectacular career in the junior ranks on to a mediocre one among the pros. It's a sad story that of French cycling's decline in the last 15 years. You have the occasional good one-day racer who can cause an upset on the biggest stage if everything falls into place (read Brochard, Voeckler), but in general, top general classification riders have been more than hard to come by as Spaniards, Italians and the odd American have come to dominate the Grand Tours. Sicard might just change that. Along with the likes of Thibault Pinot and Alexandre Geniez, Sicard is at the forefront of an emerging generation of strong climbers coming out of the l'Hexagone. While Geniez and Pinot are indeed promising prospects, Sicard has the added advantage of being a strong time triallist. He's a former French junior champ on the track, and, among other triumphs, took out the ITT at last year's Avenir. Add in his physique and obvious prowess on the climbs, you've got the makings of a GT contender. But what makes Sicard stand out from the rest of his compatriots is his mentality, his un-French mentality if you like. Some (or is that several?) French riders have been blamed for not training well or enough, for not watching what they eat, and for generally not living like a professional ought to live. In other words lacking the desire to become the best, or getting complacent due to the extensive media coverage and hype surrounding them at a fairly young age. 'Complacent' is probably a foreign word to Sicard. The Hazparne native is everything you'd want from a talented youngster learning his trade: self-effacing, prudent, humble, polite and somewhat shy. He knows he's got the world at his feet but nonetheless acknowledges he's got a lot to learn. And he doesn't complain, he just gets on with it. Pineau, Fédrigo and co. might be on to something when going on about the cyclisme à deux vitesses, but to use this as an excuse for their failings is uninventive, tiring and bereft of any real evidence. For sure, doping has been and still is widespread in the international peloton, but who's to say the French are the only ones not doing it? It's a bad excuse for a lack of professionalism and dedication. Sicard doesn't seem to share this view. And that might be down to him riding with a non-French team. Staying with Euskaltel is Spain, away from the French media and the inevitable pressure, is the best decision he could ever make. As reported earlier here on this blog, the man every Frenchman wants Sicard to emulate, Bernard Hinault, seems to share this view. "I prefer Romain to be with Euskaltel rather than with a French team", he said back in June. "It's better for his progression." If he'd been with a French team I imagine he would already have made his Tour debut this year. I think Galdeano took the right decision in postponing it, it would have been too early for him. I suspect the French directeurs sportif don't share this view. They seem to rush it a bit in France when they've got a precocious young rider at their hands. He's better off with Galdeano who'll take a more measured approach to his development.

It's been a tough opening year among the pros for Sicard, there's no hiding from that. Some will without a doubt have expected more. I think it was perfect though. He rode a full-year calendar, including some of the top one-day and one-week stage races, and no Grand Tour. Good combo. He's gotten some experience with life at the very hardest races, like at Paris-Nice and the Dauphiné, but he hasn't overly exhausted himself with a three-week tour. This year's experince will stand him in good stead come 2011. And eventhough his results haven't raised many eyebrows, he's got that small, vital, undefinable quality that I like to call class on the bike. A classy rider with an undoubted talent and the personality to go with it; Sicard has the makings of a Tour de France winner. Just give him time.


Bolsen3 said...

Totally agree, I'm sure it's only a matter of time until we see him on the podium in Paris!

What GT do you think he should do next year? I'm a fan of letting young riders start out with a go at the Vuelta, less pressure, and normally a lot easier competition. And then he'll surly be ready for the Tour 2012!

Magnus said...

Yeah, I'll say the Vuelta would be a good option for him. Alternatively the Giro together with Antón. If Euskaltel 'offered' Zomegnan Antón and Sicard they would most surely receive an invite.

Bolsen3 said...

Yeah, I hope they'll do the Giro next year, it seems like a perfect route for Anton!


web site counter
ISP Internet Providers