Francois Pervis has the words 'World Record' printed on the chainring of his Look track bike, just underneath his unmatched times in the kilometre and 200m, but the Frenchman was far from an intimidating presence at the UCI Track World Championships in London last week.
Pervis, the reigning world champion in the kilo and the keirin, left London empty-handed, exiting the individual sprint and the keirin in the first round.
“No medal – it’s been a while. Normally these last three years I’ve had a world champion’s jersey, and now nothing at all. I’m disappointed, very disappointed,” he told Cyclingnews on Sunday.
“But I surprised myself a bit because before this my physical condition wasn’t good. I hadn’t had good sensations, no good time trial in training, so my results here are logical.”
Why the lack of physical condition? Pervis points to the after-effects of a heavy winter workload in the gym and in training, but he also revealed that problems in his personal life are holding him back.
“That’s two years now that I’ve had problems. It’s still not resolved – it’s taking time. That wears me down on a day-to-day basis.
“I try to put it to one side but I can’t control everything. I don’t have complete control of my problems, it very much depends on other people also, so I’m dependent. It’s not me who decides everything – the evolution, whether it’s sorted out or not. I need to work hard but it takes time. With time I think it will pass.”
Pervis, who understandably didn’t want to offer any details on the nature of the problems, will hope the situation won’t be too much of a drain on his resources this summer.
The Olympic Games are the pinnacle for track riders and come Rio, Pervis and the rest of the underperforming French team will have to step up their performances several notches.
“Last year we won all the sprint races and this year we got just one podium,” says Pervis, referring to Quentin Lafargue’s bronze medal in the kilo. Grégory Baugé, individual and team sprint champion last year, has had a similarly lackluster week but told Cyclingnews that the Worlds pale into insignificance in an Olympic year, and those feelings were echoed by Pervis.
“We’re all disappointed, we’re asking questions of ourselves – that’s normal – but we’re not really very worried. We know where we’re at and we know where we’re going,” he said.
“It’s not like we’ve done nothing for months; we’ve worked really hard and maybe we’ve just not recovered well enough to be in top shape here. But our heads are already in Rio.”
With five riders vying for a place in the French team sprint trio, performances in London probably should have counted for something. Pervis, though, is confident that his pedigree – and the fact that no one else covered themselves in glory in London – makes him a shoe-in for a seat on that Rio-bound plane.
“The other French guys here they didn’t get results either so we’re all in the same boat,” he said. “The selection is based on results from the last two years. I’ve been world champion multiple times, in multiple disciplines, so I’m not worried.”