A key domestique of Romain Bardet in the Tour de France and a stage winner on the Mûr de Bretagne himself, Rouleur sits down with the man nicknamed ‘Pikachu’ to chew the fat.
Where is your favourite place to race?
I like my birth region, the Jura. You have the Tour de l’Ain close by and that takes in the roads all around the Jura. They are my old training roads, and it’s a very special feeling to be able to race there. I know how the roads work, those little lanes…
What would you be doing if you weren’t a racer?
I think I would have worked in a bank, I did a masters in banking. I liked studying asset management though I don’t know whether I’d have got to the top of that because, like sport, it’s very specialist. But I would have liked something like that. I have a mathematical mind; more mathematic than literary.
Well apologies for the next question then: what was the most recent book you read!?
It was probably a little book on the history of Cuba, I went there on holiday and so I decided to read up on its history. We did three stages of the trip, one bit in this little hidden valley where we were trekking and out in nature, then we went to do some diving, and then to Havana the capital. That was my least favourite bit, even though it was full of history. You discover that the legend is different to the truth.
Why did you pick Cuba?
We wanted to go before it got too touristy. I fear that in the future it might become a bit more like Martinique or the Dominican Republic. But it was great; everyone was very respectful, very welcoming.
Are you a dog or cat person?
That’s a tricky question! That’s a Cornelian dilemma as we say in France [a Cornelian dilemma is one where either option has a detrimental effect on the chooser – Ed]. Younger I was very much dog. Now I’m more cat.
Who would be your dream dinner guest?
I don’t know… I mean, I was lucky that in 2016 I was invited to have dinner by the Ministry of the Economy, and the minister at that time was Emmanuel Macron. We had a little debate during this dinner which was really interesting, talking about green economics and so on. For someone like me who likes economy and finance it was great. He was an impressive person but above all very open. He puts people at ease.
What do you make about cycling’s green economics, then?
From environmental point of view, professional cycling is a catastrophe. We’re going in the right direction, ASO have introduced these green zones for rubbish, for example. It is small steps, but it’s through taking these small steps forward that we’re going to advance. Now you see EF have the electric cars. Actually, in France a car magazine did a study on the efficiency of electric cars against petrol cars, and it all comes down to which country you drive the electric car in.
What did they figure out?
In Spain, where most of the electricity is from solar panels or the wind it’s not the same thing as in Germany where most of the energy comes from coal. They worked out that overall, electric cars were ever so slightly better than petrol and diesel. They are the less bad option.
We heard you bought an electric mountain bike recently…
Yeah, because a downhill mountain bike is just too heavy for climbing. I go training in the morning, and then if I want to go out for fun, I don’t want to have to ride hard up a climb to enjoy the descent. But you still want the suspension, big tyres, and that feeling of security going downhill. With an electric bike I can fit in three or four downhill runs and climb back up at 35kph, whereas normally I’d have to climb back up at 5kph. And it means I can go out riding with my girlfriend too.
You heard it here first: electric bikes are acceptable!
Yeah! Though I go out with a skin-tight jersey and bib shorts on a full-sus mountain bike, which is really not the style! It looks like I’ve made a mistake.
What’s the most expensive thing you own?
My house, probably. Haha… well, actually, I’m a but uneasy about saying more than that because I’m very proud of my roots and the Jura was where I grew up, I love it there. But to cycle, in winter, it’s too cold. So… I live in the south of France, near Perpignan. That’s where I finished my studies.
What’s your party trick?
Uhhhmm [long pause]. I like cooking? And I do a lot of DIY at home. And I really like all sport. I play golf, I do alpine skiing, cross-country skiing, downhill mountain biking…
Do you have any advice for your 16 year-old self?
That’s a hard one. Even at 16 I was very competitive and I had started racing. It took me time to realise that if you are too focussed on performance – just performance – then it can actually be counteractive. The important thing is to look after the ‘esprit’, and to realise that being balanced in life isn’t going to be detrimental to your sport.