After having finished only fifth in the French time trial championship, 53-year-old Jeannie Longo is unlikely to be selected for the national squad for the Olympic Games in London later this summer. Longo was unable to defend her 2011 title against up-and-coming young riders such as race winner Pauline Ferrand-Prévot and second-placed Audrey Cordon, and the younger generation seems to have finally taken over Longo's reign in French women's cycling.
With three Olympic entry slots available in the women's category, French federation officials looked somewhat relieved after Longo's defeat on Friday, as another success would have meant an eighth Olympic selection for the rider whose reputation has been recently tarnished by several doping-related affairs. Her husband and trainer, Patrice Ciprelli, has admitted having bought EPO on the internet, and Longo herself was accused of not having communicated her whereabouts several times.
Even if Longo wins Saturday's road race, women's coach Isabelle Gautheron told L'Equipe that it would not necessarily lead to a selection. "If she wins on Saturday, we will study the case... But I think what is really important today is the breakthrough of this new generation. It's magnificent news," a happy Gautheron said after the time trial.
"The time trial told us what we had to know. She seemed to lack power. It's one of the first times that Jeannie was beaten by such a significant margin in the discipline she prefers. I cannot speak in the name of the commission, which will meet next week, but what I can say is that I have three girls, with Aude Biannic (fourth-placed), who fulfill the selection criteria," she added.
The new French time trial champion Ferrand-Prévot, 20 years of age and also qualified for the London Olympics mountainbike competitions, also hoped that a new chapter will now begin for French women's cycling. "One should't denigrate what she accomplished, but I'm relieved," Ferrand-Prévot admitted. "Until now, people talked a lot about Longo, but now this will change. For her, it's the end of a reign. And many people are happy about it..."
If Longo wins the women's road race on Saturday, it would be her 60th French championship title. All in all, she has 30 medals in the Olympics and World Championships to her tally, and more than 1100 victories in a career that has spanned over 30 years.