Euskaltel's Sicard gets career underway in Australia

Under-23 World Champion Romain Sicard (Euskaltel-Euskadi) is making his ProTour debut at the Tour Down Under

Under-23 World Champion Romain Sicard (Euskaltel-Euskadi) is making his ProTour debut at the Tour Down Under (Image credit: Jean-François Quénet)

Romain Sicard commenced his top-level professional career by going on the attack in stage one of the Santos Tour Down Under in Australia on Monday.

"I tried to make the first break but three guys managed to do it just after my effort, so I couldn't go again," said the Frenchman, who was luckier than most of his team-mates who crashed during the first third of the stage and even in the neutral zone. "On Mengler's Hill, I was flat out but I was able to stay with the main bunch," added the 22 year old.

Currently the U23 road race world champion, he's a curiosity not only due to being the second French Basque to have joined Euskaltel after Thierry Elissalde back in 1994 when the regional team was created, but also because he's seen as France's next climbing sensation.

It remains a mystery as to why a French team never scouted the Bayonne-born cyclist who was the first Frenchman to win the Tour de l'Avenir since Sylvain Calzati in 2004 and the first ever French national to become the U23 world champion.

Interestingly, even the French cycling federation neglected him after the two national selection calls he got as a junior, one being for Paris-Roubaix. Last August, it was Biel Kadri - a member of the Santos Tour Down Under stage one breakaway for Ag2r La Mondiale - who asked national coach Bernard Bourreau: "Why don't you try Sicard?"

A winner of the UCI 1.1 Subida al Naranco 39 seconds ahead of Olympic champion Samuel Sanchez, he convinced Euskaltel to transfer him from their feeder continental team Orbea.

"The Euskadi Foundation has scouted me because I'm a Basque, because of my results and because of the physiological tests they asked me to do," explained the rider who remained unnoticed in his country despite his title as elite French champion on the track for the scratch race in 2008. "No French directeur sportif ever approached me, not even for a chat, but it's understandable. My results weren't consistent enough," he admitted without a hint of vengeance.

"However, I'm happy with my destiny," he added. "My disappointment of not wearing the world champion's jersey despite still being Under 23 is compensated by my pleasure of riding for such a beautiful team. As I'm attached to the Basque culture, I'm very happy to be with Euskaltel. I speak mostly in Spanish with them but I'm also learning Basque, which is something I've always wanted to do. I feel as much Basque as French, it's 50-50 in my mind."

Sicard said he doesn't feel any responsibility to becomed the cycling star France is desperately seeking. "I'm very far away from that," he explained. "I've only got results in the U23 category and I still have a lot to learn. Maybe we have a promising generation as four of us made the top 16 at the world's but I'm not the only one for the future of French cycling.

"There is also Arthur Vichot and Thibault Pinot who are racing here in Adelaide for Française des Jeux, [Cofidis' Tony] Gallopin, [2008 Junior world champion] Johan Le Bon and also Alexandre Geniez and Arnaud Courteille who were very helpful for me at the world championship. Don't forget that young French riders like Brice Feillu and Anthony Roux have already won stages in Grand Tours," he added.


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