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Firing for French gold

Frenchman Grégory Baugé

Frenchman Grégory Baugé (Image credit: AFP)

Sprinting is in his nature. Not content with wins at the French and World Championships, 23-year-old Grégory Baugé has his sights fixed on Beijing… and he wouldn't mind running the 100 metres too. Les Woodland talks to him about riding, running, and the racism that has plagued him on his way to the top of the track sprinting hierarchy

Procycling: We've always thought of you as a track rider, so we were surprised to find out that you started on the road and that your first win was in a cyclo-cross race.

Grégory Baugé: Yes, well, I started when I was nine. I learned quickly and won that cyclo-cross race just six months later. It was at Conflans, in the Yvelines region. Cyclo-cross is a form of racing that I still love. I can't ride it any more because of the track season, but if I get a chance to see a race, whether it's the youngsters or the stars, I go along. I rode cyclo-cross until I was 16.

I was 10 years old when I won that first race. It was superb. Your first win brings a special joy - seeing your family there, your friends, all of them happy. I didn't have a chance to raise my hands in the air that time, but I won three times in a row, riding in plimsolls.

Procycling: That must have pleased your family because it was your father who pushed you into cycling, wasn't it?

GB: I'm not sure "push" is the right word. When I started, he was hesitant because I'd already been doing football for a while. When I said I wanted to take up cycling, there was the question of getting a licence to sort out, which was fairly expensive. Then we had to buy a bike… I had to justify myself. And that's how it started. But from the day I started, my dad always supported me, accompanied me to races and took me on all the long journeys. He was always there beside me.

Procycling: You had a future as a cyclo-cross rider, or perhaps a roadie, but you changed - you became a pistard…

GB: I wasn't inspired by the track in the beginning. There weren't many races and it was hardly ever on television, so for a youngster like me, it was hard to have idols on the track. Not like on the road, though, with the Tour de France and races like that…

Procycling: Your hero used to be Jan Ullrich, didn't it?

GB: [Laughing] Yes, for me it was Jan Ullrich. I grew up with him as my hero, never mind what happened to him later… [Ullrich retired in 2007, still maintaining his innocence of links to the Operación Puerto doping scandal].

But things weren't going so well for me on the road. The races weren't going the way I wanted them to. So I went to the track, just to see. That was when I was about 13 years old. It was a sprint championship at the Cipale track here in Paris - the national cadet championship. I really enjoyed it - and I came second. Even though I didn't win, it gave me a lot of pleasure. And that's how my track career started. I made my choice. My father [was all for it] because he recognised that I wouldn't face the obstacles I would on the road, like doping and maybe the colour of my skin. Et voila!

To read the full interview, click here.