Yoann Offredo (FDJ) has admitted that in spite of his fine fourth place at Saturday’s Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, he still harbours doubts about his ability to be in the mix with the best riders come April.
The Frenchman showed sustained flashes of his potential in the Classics last year, including a fine display at Milan-San Remo, and he explained that he puts himself under considerable pressure to perform at the sport’s major rendezvous.
“I was so nervous [before the start of Omloop Het Nieuwsblad], that I was on the point of crying,” Offredo told L’Équipe. “In all the big objectives that I give myself, I have the impression of playing for my life, of having a knife against my throat.
“It’ll be the same at the start of Milan-San Remo, I’m going to s**t myself.”
In spite of his confident showings on the bike, the 24-year-old Offredo is seemingly plagued by uncertainties off of it, and he confessed that his high finish on Saturday has done little to allay his fears.
“I’ve so little confidence in myself that I can’t enjoy this fourth place,” he explained. “I read and hear everywhere that Nieuwsblad isn’t the Tour of Flanders, that the best riders don’t take it full-on, that the rain and the cold created unpredictable racing conditions. All of these comments end up making me doubt and think that deep down maybe I benefited from favourable circumstances.”
Offredo is nonetheless aware that with his growing string of impressive performances in big races, he is earning his place at cycling’s top table.
“Last year, I gave Hushovd a push at the foot of the Taaienberg, thinking that I would gain his sympathy, but the big riders never give you anything,” he said. “It’s by pedalling that you gain respect, by treating them as equals. And I think that now I have won my place near them.”
Offredo also explained that curbing his attacking instincts in the finale of the Omloop would not have seen him improve on his final placing of fourth behind winner Sebastiaan Langeweld (Rabobank). The Frenchman was very aggressive in the final 50km of the Flemish race but insisted that riding to conserve energy would not have altered the final outcome.
“I could have avoided accelerating on the Taaienberg but that’s where Boonen had set the race alight last year and I thought that he’d do the same thing,” Offredo said. “So I joined him to get into the race, to free myself of my own tension. I don’t think I’d win by being more cautious. If I didn’t attack on the Mate, I would have stayed with Gilbert. All told, I prefer to follow my instincts and be a player in a race rather than let it happen to me.”
Offredo is also one of the few riders to publicly admit that he would be as happy to race without a radio earpiece, provided that race organisers can offer guarantees on the safety of their events.
“We’re in a period where races are boring, stereotypical, even on television, with breaks being systematically brought back four kilometres from the line,” he said. “So I don’t want earpieces to kill cycling.
“The organisers need to ensure good conditions in terms of security and information, and give cycling back its uncertainty and give it back to the opportunists, like Gilbert, and like me.”