Richard Virenque: “I’m surprised and disappointed to be attacked by Bradley Wiggins”
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Sunday, July 15, 2012

Richard Virenque: “I’m surprised and disappointed to be attacked by Bradley Wiggins”

by Ben Atkins at 10:01 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour de France, Doping
 
Mountains jersey record-holder encourages British Tour leader to be more aggressive to appeal to French public

richard virenque

Retired French rider Richard Virenque has spoken of his disappointment at being singled out in a blog by Tour de France leader Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky) in the Guardian this week. Wiggins spoke of the reasons why he said he would never dope, in which he cited the difference between the way Virenque is still revered in France to the treatment he would likely face in the UK.

Virenque was the team leader of the notorious Festina team and, although he never won the Tour, picked up a record seven polka-dot jerseys. After the scandal of his team’s internal doping programme broke during the 1998 Tour, the Moroccan-born Frenchman continued to deny knowingly having doped; finally confessing in court in October 2000.

Despite the revelations of what went on at Festina however, Virenque remains popular in France, and currently works for a French radio station during the Tour.

"To be honest, I'm quite surprised and disappointed to have been attacked this way by Bradley Wiggins” Virenque told Cyclism'Actu. “What's the point, what is the purpose? I do not understand it.

“I do not consider myself a hero,” he said. “If I am respected and even revered by the French public and elsewhere, I can only rejoice. My career had its ups and downs, you know, and as I always said it was a blessing for me and my family. I had the chance to return after my suspension and I did it with my guts. I think I ended my career on a few performances, and I think it was not so bad.”

Virenque was famous for his flamboyant style - much as Europcar’s Thomas Voeckler is now - which many criticised him for, as they felt that the energy wasted was one of the reasons for his failure to win the Tour. This flamboyance though, was what endeared him to so much of the French public, and he feels that Wiggins could take a lesson from this.

“If Wiggins wants to be adored by the French public, I would advise him to be more aggressive, like a Thomas Voeckler, a Sylvain Chavanel, a Thibaut Pinot or a Pierre Rolland knows how to do,” he said. “And also to speak more French so the public can appreciate him.

“Yes, I am surprised and somewhat disappointed by such remarks but…”

Cyclism'Actu columnist Cyrille Guimard - who guided Bernard Hinault, Laurent Fignon and Lucien Van Impe to Tour glory - is also apparently confused by Wiggins’ choice of words, comparing the relative standing of cycling as a sport in the two countries.

"Wiggins says what he thinks; the facts are not discussed,” he said. “Road cycling is poorly developed in England, it does not have this culture of doping that you can have in Latin countries. For Wiggins, someone who has been caught doping should not be a hero. But Virenque, at the time, when he went to take the mountains jersey, created emotions. It does not fade.”

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