By Jean-François Quénet in Beijing, China
France's Mathieu Ladagnous, who made his Tour de France debut with Française des Jeux last year, has recovered in time to take part in the Beijing Olympic Games. The rider has had a hectic season following a crash during a mountain bike training ride on May 1.
"I remember ... I was only able to ride for 300 metres after that," he said. "Some ligaments were destroyed. My first thought was - my Tour de France is over. My second thought - will I be back for the Olympics?"
While doctors predicted two entire months away from the bike Ladagnous was already training on rollers five weeks later. He even took part in the French championship and the Tour du Doubs and also rode the Tour de Wallonie.
"I haven't returned to my level on the road yet," he said. "I lack the foundations. But I found a good form quicker than I thought, it sounds good for the track at the Olympics."
Together with Nicolas Rousseau, Christophe Riblon, Damien Gaudin and Fabien Sanchez, Ladagnous has set a first goal in Beijing: to beat the French national record of 4'02"87 in the team pursuit. "This year we are not able to go under four minutes like the best teams do nowadays," the 24 year-old from Pau said.
France is not a favorite against the likes of Great-Britain, Denmark and Australia. But Ladagnous has higher ambitions in the madison with Jérôme Neuville, who is a former world champion for the specialty.
"I feel good and I'm confident, but I hope I'll be able to finish the Madison without struggling at the end because of the too short training period," he said. "For now, I'm really focused on the Olympics. After that I'll do the Tour of Spain, but it's more as a preparation for next year. This year I only have 22 or 23 racing days on the road, I need more."