By Hedwig Kröner
Even more so than the squadra Azzurra not being able to score a medal at the recent World Championships in Madrid, French rider Anthony Geslin was one of the big surprises of Sunday's road race. Finishing third behind Tom Boonen and Alejandro Valverde, the young Frenchman also shares more than the podium with the two: all three riders were born in the year 1980, which proves that a change of generation is undoubtedly taking place.
Back in France, the Bouygues Telecom pro still couldn't believe what he'd done. "I don't realise it, really," Geslin told L'Equipe. "It's weird to open the newspapers and see my face grinning back at me!" The 25 year-old then explained his view of the sprint in Madrid, and that his way of achieving top placings without really getting noticed [he was top ten three times in the 2005 Tour de France - ed.] is all about catching the right wheels.
"I'm not a guy like Boonen - I'm far away from having that much power so I have to take advantage of the other's air aspiration," he continued. "It's all about positioning. On Sunday, as we went into that final curve, I was on Boonen's wheel. I saw Valverde start the sprint and I thought - very, very early. That false flat was hard so I let four of five guys pass me on purpose. After that, it's a question of feeling - you can make the right choices or fail, but you have to try.
"So I jumped from wheel to wheel, doubling the guys one by one. At one point, I was on the right hand side, and I felt that I had to go to the left, so I crossed over because I felt that the road would be opening up over there. When I passed the line, I knew that I was third, very close to Valverde..."
For Geslin, the bronze medal is a personal accomplishment but also an important sign to the criticism French cycling has received in the last years. "There's a generation of young French riders who is emerging at the moment, 25-year olds, and we have to be given the time to ripen. I'm happy to have shown that we can succeed in one-day races, however important they are. The French are not beer-drinking guys who don't know how to train, as has been stated before."