Frédéric Guesdon prepares for one final Classics campaign
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Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Frédéric Guesdon prepares for one final Classics campaign

by Ben Atkins at 2:07 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Spring Classics, Paris-Roubaix
1997 Paris-Roubaix winner readying himself for one final tilt at the pavé before taking his seat in the FDJ-BigMat team car

frederic guesdonFrédéric Guesdon (FDJ-BigMat) is going through the motions one last time, in preparation for what will be his final season as a rider in the professional podium. As a founding member of Marc Madiot’s team, the 40-year-old has spent fifteen of his seventeen seasons as a professional in the white, blue and red strip with the four-leaf clover motif; his eighteenth season though, will be cut short, as he will be hanging up his wheels shortly after Paris-Roubaix.

Guesdon’s 1997 victory in the Enfer du Nord – a race that Madiot himself wonm twice – was the first major victory for the new French team, and the first of his own career. That sprint on the famous outdoor concrete of the Roubaix Vélodrome, against some of the giants of the Cobbled Classics, has defined the Breton rider’s career.

He still stands as the last Frenchman to win the Queen of the Classics, and has often been the first rider from the home nation to finish on six occasions since. Thankfully, his preparations for one final tilt at the cobbles of le Nord is going to plan.

“Yes and I'm lucky,” he said. “The weather is ideal in Brittany this winter: it is not cold and it's not constantly raining. At the beginning of 2011 I thought that it would be my last season, but I am still on my bike with goals in mind for the spring. I am doing between 20 and 25 hours of training a week, with the longest ride of five hours.

“I often ride with Benoît Vaugrenard and Arnaud Gérard,” he added, “and sometimes with other Bretons like Julian Simon, Laurent Pichon, Armando Fonseca or Romain Hardy.”

Although Guesdon celebrated his fortieth birthday on October 14th last year, the Frenchman will still only be the second oldest rider in the WorldTour. He may be nine days older than RadioShack Nissan’s Chris Horner, but he remains 27 days younger than the American’s eternally youthful German teammate Jens Voigt.

Nevertheless, despite this – and the fact that he is old enough to have fathered many of his teammates – Guesdon just didn’t’ feel ready for retirement at the end of 2011.

“A year ago, I completed my brevet d'état [coaching qualification – ed], it was difficult to reconcile everything,” he explained. “Finally in August, because I was always happy on my bike, despite a certain emotional weariness sometimes, I told Marc that it might be good to ride the Classics again. I signed a four months contract in the next few days.”

Following Franco; bowing out in style in the iconic vélodrome

With his career very much defined by his Paris-Roubaix victory, it’s no surprise that Guesdon – like the late, great two-time winner Franco Ballerini – has chosen the race to mark his retirement. Needless to say, he hopes to arrive in the famous vélodrome in style, just one last time.

“I hope everything will go well for my last appearance on the pavé... It's true that this is my last winter, so it leaves me a little nostalgic,” he said. “I have a total of 26 racing licenses; I've had 18 years in the pros. It’s been a huge part of my life, but I'm not tired of training and I am focused on my métier.

"Without constantly repeating myself it will be over soon.”

Guedon’s season will start a little earlier than usual, as he will be part of the FDJ-BigMat team that heads to Australia for the Tour Down Under. One of the big factors that influenced his decision to make the long journey south is simply to make the most of the time he has left in the professional peloton.

“I went there in 2002 and I liked it,” he explained. “I think that maybe the last time in my life that I will go to Australia, and I want to do as many races as possible in these four months. I don’t want to stake everything on Paris-Roubaix, you never know what could happen before then, and I want to enjoy myself.

Like most riders Guesdon has got his spring programme mapped out; unlike virtually all of his colleagues in the peloton though, this is where his season will end, and so he has a full schedule planned.

“The Tour Down Under in January, the Tour Mediterranean [if it is not cancelled – ed], the Trofeo Laigueglia, the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne, Tirreno-Adriatico, Milano-Sanremo, Dwars door Vlaanderen, the Grand Prix E3, maybe Gent-Wevelgem, the Ronde van Vlaanderen, probably the Grand Prix de l'Escaut and Paris-Roubaix,” he listed.

“FDJ is going to have a very good team in those races,” he added. “With David Boucher, Gabriel Rasch, and why not our world champion Arnaud Démare, it has been strengthened further.”

Once he hangs up his wheels, Guesdon will take hold of a different wheel altogether: the steering wheel of an FDJ-BigMat team car. The 40-year-old will take a long, well earned break first though, before cutting his teeth in his new role later in the year.

“I hope so,” he said. “From April I'll take a few months off; Marc Madiot has agreed that I will be directeur sportif at a few races at the end of the season. This will allow me to understand if it's for me; I really think it is.

“I hope to still be part of the FDJ team,” he concluded. “It is a house that I know well...”


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