By Jean-François Quénet in Willunga
Since Viatcheslav Ekimov's retirement from competitive cycling at the GP Plouay last year, Laurent Brochard, now 39, is the oldest rider of the Pro Tour but none the less motivated. At his first participation in the Tour Down Under, he went on stage again in Willunga for leading the sprint points competition after being active in the daily breakaway. At km 58.8, he came 2nd to Hans Dekkers from Agritubel but when the duo sprinted again at the same windy place of Snapper Point nearby Aldinga Beach 42 kilometers later into the race, the result was the other way round.
Not only does Brochard have kept his dedication to the sport intact but he's still as fast as ten years when he outsprinted Bo Hamburger and Leon van Bon for becoming the world champion close to another beach (la concha) and another ocean (the atlantic) in San Sebastian, Spain.
That year (1997), he started suffering back problems. The following season, he actually suffered more from the infamous Festina affair, but he didn't got operated from his herniated disc. He underwent light therapies and took some rest but still managed to get a win once upon a time: Tour of Poland in 2002, Critérium International in 2003, Etoile de Bessèges in 2004, Paris-Camembert in 2005 but nothing in 2006 when he suffered more. In March last year he had no choice but finally have an operation.
"I came back too quickly, he told Reuters in Adelaide this week. During the first time trial of the Tour de France, the position on the bike affected one of my legs again and I was forced to pull out of the race. My season was over. But I never imagined this could be the end of my career."
At some stage his contract renewal with Bouygues Telecom was questioned but team manager Jean-René Bernaudeau knew that Brochard's well-known professionalism could help his young guns to learn their job under his influence, which is the case for Dimitri Champion at the Tour Down Under. Although the French veteran isn't exactly a hard worker in training and despite his association with his brother who he builds cycling frames with, he stated: "I have worked more than usual during this off-season for regaining the muscles I had lost because of my long break last year."
Brochard turned pro with Castorama 15 years ago and won a stage in the Tour of the Mediterranean straight away but he still doesn't think about retirement. He can easily see himself racing beyond 2007. "I want to win another stage at the Tour de France", he set as a goal for himself.
See all of Cyclingnews' coverage of the 2007 Tour Down Under here.