Direct Energie sprinter and track specialist Bryan Coquard has revealed that he and his fellow members of the French team pursuit squad have decided to end their quest to qualify for the event at the Rio Olympics later this year. As a result, France will not be represented in the discipline at this weekend’s World Cup event in Hong Kong.
The reigning world Madison champion and silver medallist in the omnium at the 2012 London Games, Coquard has said that the French team pursuit quartet have taken the decision because there is almost no chance of them earning qualification for the Games through World Cups and the World Championships.
“It was a collective decision made with Thomas Boudat, Julien Morice and Damien Gaudin,” Coquard told Ouest France. “We are still 300 points behind the Netherlands [for the last place available to European nations]. We’ve done the calculations. Even if we were to win the Hong Kong World Cup and the World Championship in London, which to be honest we’re not capable of doing, and the Dutch were to finish eighth on each occasion we would still not qualify.”
Coquard explained that in these circumstances he cannot justify diverting his attention from the road to his Direct Energie team boss, Jean-René Bernaudeau. “Going to Hong Kong, where there’s a seven-hour time difference, when we’re right in the midst of preparing for the road season, is too much of a commitment,” said Coquard.
The Frenchman acknowledged he was extremely unhappy at having to make this decision after spending the past year working towards the Olympics. He admitted the French team’s lack of success was significant, but suggested his national federation was largely to blame.
“All kinds of little things added together have led to this,” said Coquard. “The federation also decided to change the national coach in the middle of the Olympic cycle.” He also pointed out that France had not sent a team to the Mexico World Cup round, where 150 points were on offer to the quartet that finished in 15th place. “Only 14 teams took part,” he stated.
Coquard said that the four team pursuit riders have written to the federation explaining their concerns, but also emphasising that the focus now needs to switch to the 2020 Tokyo Games.
In the meantime, the 23-year-old Frenchman will turn his attention back to the road. The presentation of his Direct Energie team and unveiling of their new jersey takes place in Paris this evening. Coquard is expected to confirm that his primary objective will be to win a stage at this year’s Tour de France on what is set to be his third appearance in the race.
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Peter Cossins has written about professional cycling since 1993 and is a contributing editor to Procycling. He is the author of The Monuments: The Grit and the Glory of Cycling's Greatest One-Day Races (Bloomsbury, March 2014) and has translated Christophe Bassons' autobiography, A Clean Break (Bloomsbury, July 2014).
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