Super favourite Sylvain Chavanel remains the best French professional cyclist for time trial but he has lost his title to mountain biker Jean-Christophe Péraud who rode 24 seconds faster than him on the difficult and technical course of Saint-Brieuc.
Péraud, 32, was the silver medallist at Beijing Olympics for mountain biking. "Only a gold medal at the Olympics could have been better than this French title," said Péraud who is also the defending champion for amateur road race at the French championship. He'll ride for another blue, white and red jersey on Saturday.
Chavanel hopes that "losing the time trial is a good sign (for Sunday's road race) because nobody has made the double in the history."
At the intermediate times, Chavanel was never in a situation to lead the race. "I didn't know about that until 10km to go when I asked my directeur sportif (Rik Verbrugghe) who told me that I was 25 seconds behind the best time," said the Quick Step rider. "I didn't have my usual pedalling style. I'm not proud of finishing second."
On the other hand, local boy David Le Lay was delighted to go on the podium of a French championship for the first time. "I'm only one second ahead of the fourth rider (AG2R's Christophe Riblon) and I would have been extremely disappointed to miss the top three at home," commented the Saint-Brieuc-based rider from Agritubel.
Chavanel and Le Lay also have the Tour de France in mind while Péraud will return to mountain biking. "It remains my priority", he insisted. "I don't see myself representing France at the world championship for time trial. I like cycling but I love mountain biking. I'm not prepared to quit MTB but I aim at confronting myself to the best road rider. I would like to join a professional road team and combine road and MTB. I'm not sure about London Olympics though. I'll be 35 in 2012. Cycling is an endurance sport suitable for old athletes but I'll wait for one more year to determine myself about focusing on London or not."
Péraud works as a part-time engineer for a thermo hydraulic station. He has shown to the world of road riders how good cyclists mountain bikers are.