The crisis in the French track cycling programme came to a head on Monday when the head sprint coach Florian Rousseau announced that he is quitting his post.
The French sprinters were mystified after the London Olympic Games as to how they fell so far short of beating the British in the team sprint and individual sprint. The federation’s technical director Isabelle Gautheron stepped down in October following the gold medal drought, and now Rousseau has decided to leave.
“I asked myself before the Olympics and throughout the winter, what I can bring as national coach,” Rousseau told L’Equipe. “I feel I have reached my limit with respect to our organization, in the function offered by the French Federation.”
Rousseau cited a gap between the federation and the sporting side of the cycling disciplines. He said he had hoped in 2011 that there could be a reorganization, but he decried the lack of consultation between the two sides.
France still leads the all-time medal table in the track world championships, but Great Britain, in second, has been closing fast in recent years. The French may have won two gold medals at the recently concluded track world championships in Minsk, Belarus – one in the kilometer time trial through François Pervis and one in the Madison thanks to Vivien Bresse and Morgan Kneisky - but have not enjoyed the kind of dominance in the sprint which they have had in the past.
Riders have complained that in comparison with the British, they lack support in the types of marginal gains in which the British have excelled – mental preparation, nutrition, technology, and recovery.
Fabrice Vettoretti, the French National BMX coach, expressed concern that another Olympiad cycle is starting and the federation has not yet resolved the issues. “I have the same problem as Florian Rousseau and it is the same in mountain bike and on the road. We cannot continue like this.”
FFC president David Lappartient replied, telling L’Equipe that he hopes that Rousseau will continue with the organization, perhaps in a more prominent role.
“Florian is of course an expert on the track, but also has a high level of general expertise. He knows how to win. He probably has all the qualities for the position of National Technical Director,” Lappartient said, but denied there was a divide between the sporting side and the federation. “I can understand the difficulties they are facing, including a lack of resources, they may have the feeling that we were not trying sufficiently to find resources."