Laszlo Bodrogi (Katusha) has become a serious candidate for the French team at September's World Championships in Melbourne, following his bronze medal at the French time trial championship on Thursday. He was the warm favourite after his ninth place in the Dauphiné's long time trial two weeks ago, but Nicolas Vogondy and Sylvain Chavanel rode significantly faster than him on the circuit of Chantonnay in the Vendée. Nonetheless, his ride will surely have stoked the attention of French manager Laurent Jalabert.
“I still lack power”, said Bodrogi, who had a major crash that resulted in a bad fracture of his tibia and fibula during the 2008 Tour of Germany and left him out of action for eight months. “I need to do some work in the mountains to get back to the level that I had in 2008. I’m a bit disappointed that it’s taking so long.”
In 2007, Bodrogi was second to Fabian Cancellara at the World Championships in Stuttgart and he won the Chrono des Nations. He is not on the Katusha team for the Tour de France, so he will train alone in the mountains in preparation for the second part of the season.
“I’m looking for a team for next year”, he said openly after the French championship. “As you know, Katusha is sometimes stressful.” He received technical support from Quick Step for the time trial on Thursday.
At the age of 33, the former Crédit Agricole rider would welcome a return to a French team. He’s been officially a Frenchman for two years now but this was his first participation in the French championship. He was the Hungarian road race champion in 2000 and 2006, as well as being time trial champion on ten occasions between 1997 and 2008. “I only used to go back to Hungary for the national championships”, said Bodrogi, who grew up as a cyclist in Besançon in eastern France after his father moved there to work as a doctor in the late 1980s. He is married to a Frenchwoman and speaks perfect French with a Franche-Comté accent.
For the first time, he is now eligible for the French national team at the World Championships. “I have yet to be selected by Laurent Jalabert”, he said. “I have participated many times and I know that, whatever the jersey is, you need to be at the maximum of your potential to do something interesting. If I’m offered a ride at the Worlds in Melbourne for France, I wouldn’t say no. I’ve had a second place (in 2007), a third (in 2000), a fourth (in 2002) and a fifth (in 2001) at the Worlds time trial. Only first place is missing.”
In the past five years, France’s best results at the time trial at the Worlds have been 30th (Chavanel in 2005), 41st (Christophe Kern in 2006), 28th (Dimitri Champion in 2007), 10th (Chavanel in 2008) and 11th (Jean-Christophe Péraud in 2009). Chavanel ruled out another participation in this year’s Worlds. Vogondy has decided to wait and see how his form is after the Tour de France.
Péraud and Bodrogi, who will both miss the Tour, might just be the logical candidates for the race for the rainbow jersey in September.