Geoffroy Lequatre believes that RadioShack will benefit considerably from riding all three Grand Tours next season. The Frenchman is also hoping to land a place on his team’s nine-man Tour de France selection in 2011.
“It’s easier to do a good end to the season if you’ve done a big tour, especially the Tour de France,” Lequatre told Cyclingnews at the RadioShack training camp in Calpe. “It’s a big, big part of a professional rider’s conditioning to have a high-level race like that in the legs and then you can be good for the rest of the season.”
As RadioShack did not ride the Giro d’Italia or the Vuelta a España in 2010, Lequatre and the other riders who didn’t make the Tour team faced the latter part of the season without the benefits of a three-week race in their legs. In 2011, the 18 ProTeam licence holders, including RadioShack, seem set to ride all three Grand Tours.
"It wasn’t easy for a lot of us at the end of the season, especially because we couldn’t do the Tour of Spain,” Lequatre explained. “Added to that, we hadn’t been able to do the Giro because the team was in California and we couldn’t split it.”
Nonetheless, Lequatre himself was in fine form as the season drew to a close and he was quick to credit RadioShack team management with finding the right balance in his Autumn race programme.
“In the end maybe it wasn’t as big a problem as it could have been,” he said. “I was still in good shape and I still managed to ride some good races at the end of the season. I think the team recognised that it wasn’t an easy situation and tried to give us all a good mix of races in the second half of the season.”
Lequatre’s most eye-catching performance of the tail-end of 2010 came in a race close to his heart, as he came agonisingly close to snaring an emotional victory in Paris-Tours, the classic nearest to his home. After a courageous attack, he was swept up by the bunch just 400m from the finish line on the Avenue de Grammont and he has mixed feelings about the day.
“It was tough in the days and weeks afterwards to think about how close I came to the win, because Paris-Tours is obviously a big classic for me,” said the Pithiviers native. “But it wasn’t all negative for me because in a way it was almost like I had won: it made me realise that I can win something really big or at least that I can be competitive at high level races or maybe win a stage in a big tour.”
Aiming for the Tour in 2011
The low point of Lequatre’s debut season with RadioShack was missing out on selection for the Tour de France, although the Frenchman acknowledged that in a team built around Lance Armstrong’s yellow jersey ambitions it was always going to be difficult to make the cut in 2010.
“When I first signed for RadioShack it was clear that it would be hard to do the Tour de France because the team was so strong,” he admitted. “I made the pre-selection but unfortunately I didn’t go.”
In the absence of Lance Armstrong in 2011, Lequatre is aware that there might be more room for riders with the ability to chase stage wins in the RadioShack selection.
“If I get picked for the team, I think I could win a stage on the Tour,” he said. “That’s possible, but of course lot of riders want to win and there are only 21 or 22 stages, so it’s not easy. But I know I can do something good when I’m in a good form and training well.”
Lequatre’s precise early-season programme will only be established in the coming week in Calpe but he feels Paris-Nice will be his first major rendezvous. Thereafter, he will be seeking to put in a solid classics campaign before building towards July. He is refusing to allow himself to dream about any specific Tour stages just yet but even the thought of starting the 2011 race will serve as motivation through the winter.
“There’s a long way to go but at the same time, I am thinking about the Tour,” he said. “It’s an objective and, well, it’s important to set objectives. With a goal like that you are more motivated and you can organise and focus yourself to be in good shape at the right moment.”
A man apart
While Lequatre’s dreams of Tour glory are typical of most French riders, he is different to many of his countrymen in other respects. For instance, after a career spent in French teams, he is revelling in the international outlook of the RadioShack set-up.
“I grew up in French teams and I’m the rider I am today because of French cycling, so I’m not criticising French teams, but maybe the mentality of this team suits me better,” he said. “The team has confidence in its riders and when a team trusts its riders, the riders repay that trust.
“The difference between this team and a French team is that you’re treated more like an adult here. You have to be responsible and that’s the strength of this team.”
As well as moving to a foreign team, 2010 also saw Lequatre launch his own brand of cycling clothing, G4 Dimension. He explained that one of the big motivating factors behind his venture was a desire to showcase cycling in a positive light.
“I did it because I wanted to show the public that a professional cyclist could do something a little different and I wanted to bring something fresh to cycling,” Lequatre said. “I also did it because it helps to give me some balance in my life.
“A cycling career can have its ups and downs, and sometimes when things are down, it’s good to have something else to focus on. I can use it as a means of de-stressing from racing, and it’s helped me to be better on the bike.”