French mountain biker Jean-Christophe Peraud will be concentrating on road cycling the next two years, racing as a neo-pro with Belgian team Omega Pharma-Lotto. Until now, the 32-year-old has been competing mainly on the mountain bike circuit, where he has achieved prestigious victories such as the 2005 European Championship and a silver medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Last year, he nevertheless started to excel on the road as well, becoming French amateur champion. In 2009, he went on to win the French Time Trial Championship in Saint-Brieuc before placing second in the Chrono des Nations - Les Herbiers and becoming 12th in the World Championships time trial. Riding as an elite without contract, he then received numerous offers from the ProTour teams, and decided to give professional road racing a go.
"I do it only for the challenge," Peraud told L'Equipe when asked why he turned pro now, at 32 years of age. "My aim is to participate in the Tour de France."
Initially, Peraud had envisaged to combine mountain bike and road cycling, but Omega Pharma-Lotto persuaded him to concentrate solely on the road for a while. "For Omega, the trigger was the departure of Cadel Evans. They had to find someone to fill in - numerically, that is - and they thought of me, notably counting on my climbing skills. Of course, I will not be on the same level as Evans..."
Although the Toulouse native is the current French time trial champion, he defines himself a climber. "If I won that time trial, it's mainly because I also know how to suffer," he smiled, elaborating further on his goals for the 2010 season.
"Beside the Tour, the event that I most look forward to is the Dauphiné, which has a very mountainous route. But it's true that I can make good use of my qualities as a rouleur in races like the Critérium international, Paris-Nice or the Dauphiné, to remain in contention on the general classification. But I was first and foremost recruited to help our stage race leader Jurgen Van den Broeck. I would also like to be at the side of Philippe Gilbert in the Ardennes Classics like Liège-Bastogne-Liège; races that have a certain rythm to them like some mountain bike events."
Peraud will thus trade his knobbly tires for some slicks, but not without regret. "I will try to shine on the road the next two years. After that... I don't know. I already missed my mountain bike a bit this year. I still have the Olympic Games in London on my mind. My dream would be to double up the road race and the cross-country event. But that's still three years away. Beforehand, I want my first professional road season to be a success."
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