Lilian, you’re going to make your debut in your new colours on Sunday through the French cyclo-cross championship…
“I come again to my old flame. I’ve at all times achieved cyclo-cross within the winter. There, it was very sophisticated to do it, even on the regional degree. The truth of being in my new colours since January 1 will increase the will tenfold. It’s been a whereas since I needed to give a bib, I’ve not achieved any races since my retirement from the Tour de France. Participating within the French championships was not essentially deliberate but it surely was not an choice fully dominated out both. I’m very comfortable to be in the beginning on Sunday. “
What do you count on from it?
“To have a lot of enjoyable. To additionally do an hour’s work that I can not essentially do at residence as a result of it is tough to do in coaching. There with adversity, we at all times get essentially the most out of ourselves. I hope to have enjoyable and play with my bike. Opportunities like this, particularly in cyclo-cross, there are not any questions to ask. I’m not a specialist, however I’ve at all times achieved it in my junior and hopeful years, it makes me comfortable. I didn’t do any particular coaching. But in January, a skilled rider has to be in good situation and sharpening and I do. I additionally hope to share the enjoyment of the title with Clément Venturini. “
How did you experience this period away from the pelotons?
“We will say that this is a first return to competition. I left the Tour de France at the eighth stage, it was at the beginning of September. It’s been a long time since I ran, I’m thirsty for competitions. And a French cyclo-cross championship, on a circuit that I love, is the opportunity to take a maximum of adrenaline. The next day, we will go on internship and the real integration into the group will take place at that time. “
“My departure is greater than thought-about for a very long time. Since the start of 2019, I’ve been asking myself a lot of questions. I already had fairly a little bit of contact with AG2R. It’s a staff with values and a philosophy that I notably like. I wanted to stimulate myself and see the best degree, to have entry to the World Tour degree, to new much more diversified and harder occasions. I needed to carry one thing new to these first 5 years which glided by shortly. But over the past two seasons, I used to be beginning to revolve across the identical issues and the identical patterns. I did not need to keep on the sting.
A profession passes shortly, I’ve simply turned 28 years outdated. No matter how lengthy my profession lasts, I do not need to have any regrets on the finish and for now I’m already very happy. But I’m thirsty for one thing else. My coming to AG2R is not a click on however a aid. I had this on my thoughts two years in the past, however I reluctantly selected to keep at Total. I’m now very proud of my alternative. I’ve all of the playing cards in hand to proceed my progress, exploit my potential and mix into a very, very top quality collective. “
What are you thirsty for?
“I am attached to the big towers. I would have signed straight away at the start of my career if I had been told that I would win two stages on the Grand Tours. I didn’t think I would. And now I have this obsession in mind to be able to put my name on the list of the three grand tours. I miss the Giro. This is what I most want to date and AG2R will allow me to put myself in the best possible position for this race. I will be able to try to titillate this dream and this goal this year. It’s a prospect that motivates me and pushes me to train, even on days like today when I rode six hours in zero degrees. This will revive me well and serve as a springboard. “
Does that imply there is no a probability to see you at the start of the Tour de France all the identical ?
” No. The priority is that I only have one year of contract. I have a great appetite, with a light mind and a thirst for running. I had lost that state of mind a bit. Obviously, the priority is until May. The second part of the season has been drawn up, but it is a plan that is not 100% predetermined. The Tour de France is not totally excluded. To be at the start of the Tour, I cannot confirm it, but to be in the preselection, certainly. “
Does this imply that your racing program will likely be notably transalpine earlier than the Giro d’Italia to take in this environment?
“You have to ask the sports activities administrators! (laughs) But it is fairly logical to run in Italy and take in that local weather. But there won’t solely be Italian races, I’ll resume with a traditional program on the GP La Marseillaise and the Drôme Ardèche Buckles where I come every year and where I perform. But usually, there will be no Paris-Nice. And that is good as a result of I used to be beginning to get fed up. “
You join a team that also welcomes Bob Jungels and Greg van Avermaet to its ranks. Do you hope to learn from them?
“Of course, we can always observe them and be inspired. Afterwards, I have a bit of a drink too and watching others too much, that doesn’t necessarily help. You have to know yourself well. It will pull the group up to have champions like that, especially for the young people who are progressing. And at AG2R, this is the case with a generation of promising runners. “
“With Total-Direct Energie, the marriage was consummated”
You solely signed for one 12 months. Is this a supply of motivation or concern?
“If I might have signed two years it could have been good. I used to be provided a 12 months and it suited me very, very nicely as a result of my approach out was all discovered. It was a large aid for me. Signing for a 12 months does not matter. If I can not discover a staff or signal a new contract on the finish of the season, it would imply that Calmejane has nothing to do with the professionals, that I shouldn’t have a single Top 10 within the races and that I do not stroll in any respect. If so, I’ll do one thing else with my life. I’m not on a bike to quit all of the races. I need to be among the many professionals to assist my teammates to win huge races. Benoît Cosnefroy who completed second within the Flèche Wallonne, I would really like to take part in his victory if he continues to progress. I would really like to win the Giro… These are my plans, I practice laborious for that. I’m not saying I’m going to get there, but when I’m very, very removed from it, if I quit all of the races, one thing else can have to be achieved. “
2021, will it be a year to convince?
“Not really because this will be my sixth pro year. We always have things to prove but the managers and the people in the field know my abilities. I am not a young rider who spent two years on the sidelines and who is looking for a contract. I am not in this situation. My desire is to have a little test this year and then to register for the long term. Even though I only signed for one year, I see my future at AG2R for several years. I hope it will. “
Is this quest for pleasure important?
“Fun is vital, but it surely’s not every little thing. More than that, I wanted to put issues again on monitor, to query myself. To arrive in an surroundings, in a far more skilled, far more structured context, and in addition in a context the place I’ve staff members who shine on all terrains, that I’ve to mix into a collective… all of this stimulates me. I’m a competitor. I want to discover this thirst for competitors. I need to arrive in any respect the races with a particular goal, whether or not for the staff or for me, and never to placed on a bib, as has occurred, with a little decrease morale. “
Was it difficult to have this status of leader at Total-Direct Energie?
“Not necessarily because there had been the arrival of Niki Terpstra and the performances of Anthony Turgis or Niccolo Bonifazio. It was complicated in the sense that after the year 2017 there were a lot of expectations on me and rightly so but it was an exceptional season. Apart from a Thibaut Pinot or a Julian Alaphilippe, no French rider can do years like this every year. And I am far from being at their level, I am not at all a runner of this class.
Myself and the expectations of the outside, that was something that maybe was negative. But I like the responsibilities and the pressure. It’s not only that which made 2020 less successful. I needed new goals. The marriage was simply consummated. “