By Bjorn Haake in Paris
Alexandre Blain is in his second year as a professional career, which he started with Cofidis in 2008. He is a native of Nice in southern France, where he still lives. But come spring time, Blain is drawn to the cold and rainy Classics in northern Europe. He has already laid a solid base for his main part of the season, which is in March and April.
As usual he took a month off after his final race, the Giro di Lombardia. "I started training again in mid-November, with most of my base kilometres coming in December." He attended the first Cofidis camp in December in Greoux-les-Bains, north of Aix en Provence. Blain enjoys a mix of workouts. "I have been riding my mountain bike, I went running and I do workouts in the gym."
But now comes the crucial part of his preparation. "In the last two weeks I did around 25 to 30 hours per week, with a few rides of about 180 to 200 kilometres. It adds up and I think I will start the season with about the same kilometres as usual - almost 6,000."
Blain admits that his love for the Belgian races seems out of place, considering his upbringing in the sunny south. "I am a bit atypical - I don't even have the typical cyclist's haircut!"
A second training camp is currently underway (January 9-16), also in southern France. "In this camp we will do more specific workouts, then we will have two more weeks before the season starts with la Marseillaise [February 1]." Blain emphasises the importance of this period "With regards to the first races, you have to invest a little more in terms of intensity and quality."
The worse the weather the better for Blain. "I am used to the sun, but it is Flanders that really suits me well - in the rain, the wind the cold and over the cobbles - and if they are muddy it is all the better!"
"The race I dream about is Paris-Roubaix. I would like to develop into a rider who can one day win it. It will take some time – you can't do that in a year or two." A true l'enfer du nord (hell of the north) would suit him just fine. "In my opinion, if it is a Paris-Roubaix with rain and wind, it will give me a bit of an advantage."
This year will be his first taste of the big Classics. In 2008, his first year as a professional, he was a replacement rider and was able to ride a few of the second category races, like Dwars door Vlaanderen, E3 Prijs Vlaanderen or Gent-Wevelgem. "I learned a lot in those races," Blain said.