Yoann Offredo (FDJ) lines up at the GP Quest France-Plouay on Sunday looking to make amends for his injury-hit spring classics campaign. The young Frenchman impressed at Het Nieuwsblad and Milan-San Remo, but a finish line crash at Gent-Wevelgem ruled him out of the remainder of the classics.
“I had reconnoitred the routes in Belgium, everybody spoke of nothing else but those races, and then I couldn’t even do them…” Offredo told L’Équipe. “In the beginning I thought I’d done all of that for nothing, but you never train for nothing. I’ve progressed mentally, I learned about myself.”
Such was Offredo’s disappointment at missing out on the main targets of this season that he was unable to bring himself even to watch the cobbled classics on television. “I didn’t watch cycling or talk cycling during the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix,” he said. “Sometimes, I’d crack and switch on the television for two seconds before pulling myself together.”
Long noted for his relative detachment from the allure of the Tour de France, Offredo admitted that he has revised his opinions slightly after witnessing the impression this year’s race had made on the French psyche in July.
“This year, I felt the impact of the Tour more than ever. There was this feeling that everything stopped for three weeks,” Offredo said. “For now, my priority is the classics, where I have a lot to win and a lot of progress to make. But if I win Het Nieuwsblad and the Tour of Flanders next year, then I’ll go and do the Tour! It’s an indisputable rite of passage for a rider.”
Before that, however, Offredo is bidding to finish his season strongly, and he will lead FDJ’s challenge at the GP Ouest France-Plouay on Sunday, where he finished 3rd last year. Like many, he expects his former teammate Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) to be the man to beat.
“He’s the bogeyman of the classics and compared to last year, there are fewer sprinters who can climb here,” Offredo said. “That’s going to change things, but for me, it’s not necessarily a problem. If I’m not impatient, I won’t be too far off.”
Rather than serving as a deterrent, Offredo suggested that Gilbert’s dominance in 2011 has been a source of encouragement, and he admitted that the Belgian rider is something of a role model.
“I have the impression that he rode a bit like me when he started with La Française des Jeux: he attacked from distance, often fell short and above all picked up placings,” Offredo said. “I empathise with that tenacity, and also with how he prefers the classics to the Tour. He’s certainly a model for riders like me.”