Jesse Sergent targeting time trial success with Ag2r-La Mondiale

New Zealand nationals first goal of 2016 season

After a "strange" season that "definitely didn't go to plan" Jesse Sergent is looking forward to a new chapter in his career with Ag2r-La Mondiale after five years with the Trek and RadioShack teams.

The 27-year-old's 2015 season is likely to be remembered more for a crash in which he had no doing, when a neutral service vehicle hit him mid-race at the Tour of Flanders, but Sergent has put the incident behind him and is looking to recapture the form that saw him take wins at the Eneco Tour, Tour of Austria and overall at the Driedaagse van West-Vlaanderen.

"I could have sat around for a while but I tried to get on with it," Sergent told Cyclingnews of the April incident which resulted in a broken collarbone. "You can't change it so I was trying to move on for myself. They came to the hotel and there was an apology from the driver, it doesn't sound like much, but for me it was quite a bit for him to come and see me. I know he didn't do it deliberately. It was human error I guess."

Sergent made his return to racing at the Tour de Wallonie, withdrawing on the first stage. Next up was the Tour de Pologne where Sergent finished 14th in the final day time trial before recording a DNF at the Vattenfall Cyclassics. Sergent then helped power Trek to team time trial victory at the Tour of Alberta which would be the last road race he finished in 2015. The disrupted season meant Sergent missed racing a grand tour for the first time since 2012 and left him underdone going into the Richmond Worlds, finishing 35th in the time trial.

Adding to his condition was the knowledge that he was in a contract year after five years with Trek teams, and two years before that on the Trek-Livestrong team, so when the offer from Ag2r-La Mondiale was placed on the table it was an opportunity Sergent grabbed with both hands.

"I sat down with the team and we had a great first meeting and I was really excited and then talks carried on from that," he said of the deal that saw him become the first Kiwi rider to sign for the French WorldTour team. "I am definitely looking forward to the change with a new team, new people and new bikes. I guess at heart I am a bit of a bike fan and I have ridden Trek for five years with the WorldTour team and then two years with Trek-Livestrong so I haven't ridden that many different brands of bikes so that will be interesting.

"I am looking forward to a refresh and meeting new riders, some I already know but the majority but I don't know personally. That will be cool to meet some new people and make the most of the next two years."

Rebooting for 2016

A time trial specialist with two Olympic bronze medals in the team pursuit and two silver medals from the track World Championships in the individual pursuit, Sergent has been a regular feature on the New Zealand national time trial dais but is yet to take home the gold medal. That is something is he looking to change and get his Ag2r-La Mondiale stint off to the best possible way as he explained to Cyclingnews.

"I want to answer that for myself," he said when asked of his form and condition for next month's nationals. "Obviously I'd love to be national champion, particularly in the time trial. It's something that I'd really like to tick off. It's something that people probably think is overdue but it's a tricky one with the time of year and it can take a race or two to get going but I am hoping I'll have some form and condition to go there and give it a go."

From the nationals, Sergent will then head across to Adelaide for the Tour Down Under but beyond the Australian race was unsure of his schedule when speaking with Cyclingnews. Sergent though explained he is looking at "one-week stage races with time trials that aren't too mountainous suit me, so I'll target and prepare for those."

Having come within eight seconds of a stage win in his last appearance at a grand tour, the final stage of the 2014 Vuelta a Espana, Sergent is also aiming to have a three week race included on his racing programme. However with the New Zealand nationals in just over one month and the World Championships being held in late-October, managing a potential ten month season in an Olympic year will be one the major topics of discussion for Sergent at the upcoming team camp.

"I think it will make for an interesting year in terms of planning," he noted. "Not so much race days but definitely the length of the season starting with nationals on January 8 and then you're looking at the Worlds so late it can make for a really long year."

Sergent is also looking to add a ride in the time trial at the Rio Olympics to his racing programme. 

What then would be judged a success for Sergent in such a long year?

"It would be nice to be back being competitive in the time trial's and a win a long the way would be perfect," he said. "I'd regard that as a good season. Starting on a good note with a good team at nationals would help for the rest of the year as well."

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