Laurent Jalabert has stepped down as coach of the French national road team, citing a “lack of support” from the French Cycling Federation.
Jalabert told L’Équipe that the federation’s request that he include track rider Mickaël Bourgain in his five-man team for the London 2012 Olympics – in order to qualify him to compete on the track – had triggered his decision.
“In my head, I knew that my mission as national coach had finished,” said Jalabert. “It finished there, even if that’s not what I wanted.”
Jalabert subsequently led the French squad at the world championships in Valkenburg and planned to hold formal discussions over his future with federation president David Lappartient during the winter months.
“But unfortunately, we never had the chance,” Jalabert said. “I don’t want to start a polemic, I’m not blaming anyone, neither him [Lappertient] nor the riders.
“I simply saw the Olympic Games as an injustice because I was lacking in support. I wasn’t the one who chose to select a track rider for the road race but I was judged as the only person responsible for the failure of the French team, even if that’s relative.”
Jalabert took over from Frédéric Moncassin in 2009 but the French squad failed to collect a medal in the world championships during his tenure. His future in the role began to be questioned publicly in the aftermath of the London Olympics.
“That was a difficult period for me. There were lots of medals in other sports but we didn’t have anything. All of a sudden, I was a pariah and journalists asked me if I was sure of staying at the head of the French team. That was a big shock, I really didn’t expect it… It would have been good to have a bit of support but it never came.”
Jalabert sustained fractures to his tibia and arm when he was struck by a car while riding his bike near his home in Montauban last month, and he said that the incident pressed him to make a final decision on his position as French coach.
“My accident made me reflect a lot,” he said. “I was struggling to decide and that precipitated my decision. I needed to be honest with everyone and with the FFC so that they can prepare for the future, starting now. This choice is the best solution for everyone and I know that it will even please certain people.”
Jalabert’s departure as road coach follows Florian Rousseau decision to step down as coach of the French track team. Rousseau resigned after the world championships in February, citing frustration with the federation’s planning for the Olympic Games in Rio in 2016.