Jeannie Longo claimed her 56th French national title in the time trial championship in St. Brieuc on Thursday. Her victory came 30 years after she took her first blue, white and red jersey on the road back in 1979.
However, the day was less than fairytale as family troubles were made public and mechanical discord occurred once again with race commissaires.
She started five seconds later than scheduled because of a discussion with the judges over the conformity of her time trial bike. The bike was initially refused. She argued that she recently rode the Souvenir Magali-Pache with the same bike and she was eventually given the green light in extremis at the difference of her rival Edwige Pitel who had to race with her replacement bike that was four years old.
Asked whether or not this incident had favoured her, Longo replied to the reporters: "You would have preferred to see her winning, right? Well, I'm happy to have won once again. The incident prior to the race gave me a lot of adrenaline at the beginning of the race. I've suffered a lot but the huge crowd has encouraged me remarkably."
Despite her popularity and her winning status still at the age of 50, Longo cried a few times after the race. It was because of the revelation by L'Equipe that she was no longer coached by her husband Patrice Ciprelli who on the other hand gives Pitel training plans. It was Longo who attracted Pitel to her town of Grenoble. She even found a job for her.
Longo was quoted as not having "a great morale being alone and staying up until 2am sometimes". During the race, Ciprelli followed his wife in the car just as he has in the past and did not follow Pitel. Longo presumed he will follow her to their usual training camp in the USA in July as a preparation for the world championship in Mendrisio.