Jérôme Coppel (Saur-Sojasun) is taking inspiration from Bradley Wiggins as he prepares for the Tour de France. A solid time triallist, Coppel continues to make strides in the mountains and is aiming to follow in the footsteps of the Briton and develop into a stage race contender.
“I’m a long way from his level, but seeing Wiggins finish fourth in the Tour [in 2009 – ed.] reassured me with the idea that it was possible to be a good rouleur and a good climber,” Coppel told L’Équipe.
The 25-year-old Frenchman finished 13th overall at the Tour twelve months ago, and with significantly more time trialling on the route in 2012, Coppel aspires to a place in the top ten this time around. His cause could well be helped if Wiggins’ Sky team look to impose a steady pace in the high mountains.
“When there’s hard attacking, I get a bit asphyxiated,” Coppel said. “At the Galibier and Alpe d’Huez last year, I blew straight away, but afterwards, when I got into a rhythm, I made up the ground on a lot of people. I climb like a rouleur, but if I manage myself well at the foot of the climb, I’m capable of following the leaders for a long time.”
In spite of his solid showing last July, Coppel’s performance went largely unnoticed by the wider French public, thanks in no small part to the exploits of Europcar pair Thomas Voeckler and Pierre Rolland.
“In another year, 13th place would have made me the first Frenchman. But if people didn’t talk about me, it’s because French cycling had a super Tour,” Coppel said. “Above all, I saw what I was capable of and that it was possible to do better.”
Coppel got his 2012 season off to a fine start with overall victory at Étoile de Bessèges and third place at the Ruta del Sol, and he gave notice of his growing pre-Tour form with second place at Bayern-Rundfahrt last week.
Before the white heat of July, Coppel lines up at the Critérium du Dauphiné, which gets underway on Sunday. A native of the Savoie region, Coppel describes the Dauphiné as “the race that he dreams of winning” but hinted that his Tour preparation would be a priority.
“It’s complicated with the Dauphiné,” he said. “I’m caught between two stools a bit, pulled between the desire to do well and the need to continue my preparation.”