By Jean-François Quénet in Adelaide, Australia
Jérémy Roy doesn't remain unnoticed at the Tour Down Under. He was an active member of the 14-man breakaway which included Lance Armstrong and Michael Rogers in stage three. But that wasn't his first attack as he also tried his luck during the Cancer Council Classic on Sunday. That day, the race announcer told the public that his name means "king" in the French language and should be pronounced "ro-a". "I'm the king of the team," he joked publicly.
The 25-year-old from Tours in the Loire valley where the kings of France built some famous castles during the Renaissance period starts his season for the second time in Australia. In 2007 he wasn't free to race in January although he had a contract as a professional cyclist. His focus was on his commitment to study mechanical engineering at the same time. He graduated at the highest level of the French university and had the best result of his class at his final exam.
It wasn't an easy task to study and race for five years. "I didn't have much time to hang around at night with the other students but sometimes they joked about me being a cyclist," he remembers. "But they also envied me for the travelling, for example when I came back to university after riding the Tour of Spain."
Once at the university of Rennes he organised a conference about drugs with the help of his team manager Marc Madiot. It was about drugs in sport but also about drugs used by the students to prepare for exams or recover from partying. Roy was the first professional cyclist to adhere to the program "athletes for transparency" that includes more out-of-competition testing and the publication of all the blood results online.
"I've become sick of hearing nasty comments about drugs and cycling," he said. "Last year during the Route du Sud, a spectator yelled at us: 'Courage, the pharmacy is up the road'." He admits he even considered pulling out of the sport he took up as a teenager because his dad was also a cyclist. But the Tour de France helped for his reconciliation with cycling. He rode the Grande Boucle for the first time last year. He climbed the Tourmalet in the breakaway group and finished second in stage 19 to Montluçon behind his compatriot Sylvain Chavanel.
Now he aims for more results. "I wanted to get some right from the start of this season", he told Cyclingnews in Victor Harbour. "That's why I attacked today. I thought this breakaway could be the right one. We were going really strongly. Rogers was probably the strongest of our group of 14 but Armstrong wasn't far from him in terms of condition. Unfortunately it didn't work out because Luis León Sánchez had a flat tyre and Armstrong's teammate [Jesús Hernández - ed.] dropped off."
Roy's condition is promising but he doesn't assure he'll get results anytime soon. "It's hard for me to set up goals because I'm not a super sprinter, I'm not a super climber and I'm not a super time triallist," he said. But he is a role model for Mikaël Chérel and Yoann Offredo who wanted to become professional cyclists without giving up their studies. All three are united at the Tour Down Under and can talk racing and university.