By Jean-François Quénet in Hahndorf
The Tour Down Under, with its 26 French riders - more than the 21 Australian riders - is an opportunity for French neo-pros to show off and gain some experience. 21 year-old Yoann Offredo, a new signing for Team Française des Jeux, is one rider who couldn't wait to launch his professional career after getting a taste of it at the end of 2007, during which he finished a convincing second place in the Tour de la Somme.
"I want to win a stage and there are only two ways of doing it: attacking from far out or sprinting," said the ambitious Offredo after riding away from the bunch for most of stage two. He fought hard to stay in the bunch after being caught and ended up in sixth place overall.
"Since I'm not a good sprinter, I had to attack from far out. I wanted to do it yesterday, and I was frustrated that I didn't get the opportunity, so I attacked from the gun today. My roommate Christophe Mengin had noticed attacking early gave the opportunity to go for the hot spot sprint and the King of the Mountains (KOM) classification."
Offredo waited for the two other Frenchmen who jumped away from the bunch after him: Bouygues Telecom's Nicolas Crosbie and Ag2r's Stéphane Poulhiès who beat him at the KOM in Mount Barker. "Fortunately I grabbed some points to help Philippe Gilbert to keep the lead," said the Parisian rider.
"I'm new in the team but I enjoy riding for someone like Gilbert who is an extremely kind person, and I'm lucky to room with Mengin who is happy to share his experience." Turning 40 years-old later this year, Mengin is the second oldest rider in the Tour Down Under. He was born just three months after Lampre's Fabio Baldato in 1968.
"I'm here to learn the codes of professional cycling," Offredo said. "For example I can see that Robbie McEwen has an easy job in the bunch, nobody prevents him from going to the front when he wants to. In the amateur ranks, the breakaway commands the race but with the pros, it's the opposite; the peloton decides what will happen."
Offredo should learn quickly. He is one of these newcomers within professional cycling who hasn't given up his studies to only train and race. Following the examples of his team-mate Jérémy Roy who successfully completed his degree in engineering last year, he is still keeping his eye on his books. In fact, Offredo fell in love with Australia as soon as he landed in Adelaide. He went to the university and decided that he'll be back here after the cycling season in the capacity of a student between his two seasons as a professional cyclist. That will not prevent him from producing spectacle on the roads.