The French Cycling Federation (FFC) has announced national coach Bernard Bourreau is stepping down the role. Bourreau, 65, succeeded Laurent Jalabert as the national coach following his departure in early 2013.
Bourreau was a professional for 11 seasons between 1974 to 1984 with the Peugeot team; riding the Tour de France every year of his career and only failing to finish once. He was teammates with Bernard Thévenet when he won his two Tours de France in 1975 and 1977. He had a very successful amateur career, which saw him become French junior national champion and finish third at the 1973 Baby Giro. Bourreau took 10 victories during his career, including stages of the Circuit de la Sarthe and the Tour du Limousin.
Following his retirement, he spent 17 years with the French junior team before moving up to the espoirs squad in 2006. During that time he oversaw Romain Sicard (2009) and Arnaud Démare's (2011) U23 World championship victories and Tour de l'Avenir success in 2009 with Sicard and in 2012 with Warren Barguil.
"There is an age, with wear and tear, that finally arrived and it was time to stop,” Bourreau told Ledauphine.com. “I have devoted 50 years of my life cycling, seven seasons in the amateur, 11 among professionals and over 30 years in the Federation. 45 years ago, I took my first win in the jersey of the French team, it's still a sacred slice of life.
"It is now that I realize that this kind of passion consumes you but it's not easy to turn such a page in your life. I was always afraid of the vacuum it would leave but you know, I am a loyal person: to the Peugeot team in my years racing, the FFC to today and my wife. She put up with it for years and I owe myself a little peace of mind too. We live in a beautiful area, I like walking in the mountains and I will also be able to get back to the bike.”
His tenure with the elite athletes has not reaped as much reward as the federation would have liked with just a silver medal at this year's European championships with Julian Alaphilippe during his three years at the helm. This year’s World Championships appeared to be the best shot for a French world champion, something that hasn’t happened since Laurent Brochard in 1997. It ended in disaster with both hopes Nacer Bouhanni and Arnaud Demare missing the crucial split in the wind and eventually abandoning. Bourreau says that the disappointment of Qatar did not play a factor in his decision making.
"Not at all, I made it early in the year,” he said. *Lately I have not been spoiled: I had a stroke back in 2013 and I had a serious bike accident in the spring of 2015 that left my neck brace eight days before the test-event Rio. And this year, with the Olympics, the European Championships and the World Championships, was particularly heavy.”
FFC president David Lappartient heaped praise on Bourreau. "I've always had a deep respect for Bernard Bourreau who embodies the values and the spirit of the FFC," Lappartient said. "He has done a great job and shown great leadership skills regardless of the generation he has led during his thirty-two seasons within our federation. His strength is to have maintained a young and fighting spirit.”
The French will have a long wait with the new coach to be voted on at the 11 March 2017 general meeting. French sport daily L’Equipe have speculated that 1992 Tour of Flanders winner Jacky Durand could take up the role.