With the Olympic mountain bike race in Hadleigh Farm, Essex, scheduled for August 12 fast approaching, cross country riders across the globe are getting ready for the challenge. The French team, consisting of two-time Olympic champion Julien Absalon, 2008 silver medallist Jean-Christophe Péraud and Stéphane Tempier, is also looking forward to the event and hopes to be as successful as four years ago in Beijing.
Péraud, who rode the Tour de France with his AG2R La Mondiale road team, has taken some time to recover from the accumulated fatigue but now feels well enough to compete again to fine-tune his Olympic preparation. The 35-year-old had planned to race the World Cup event in Val d'Isère one week after the Grand Tour finish on the Champs-Elysées, but scrapped it from his calendar in order to recuperate.
"It's just not doable. Instead of racing again, I think I need to get some freshness back," he told Cyclingnews at the end of the Grand Tour in Chartres. In the meantime, he however opted to race the last Belgacom GP in Boom, Belgium, on August 4, before taking a plane to London two days later.
Still, the Frenchman felt doubtful of his Olympic possibilities after having spent so much energy on the roads of France in July. "Initially, the objective clearly was a medal, but with all the fatigue accumulated at the Tour, I'm less certain of what I can achieve. There are only three weeks between the Tour and the Olympics, so I will try to do my best to get back the perspective of a medal," he said.
"The amount of the workload has been enormous, so now it's really about recovering and assimilating that in the best possible way, to try and transpose it on the mountain bike."
Péraud insisted that the double goal of a good Tour de France result and the Olympics was theoretically possible, but that the way in which he approached the challenge had not been perfect. "I made a mistake in the spring when I took a week off, and then I think I raced a bit too much afterwards, so I've had some trouble coming up to the form I wanted," he said.
But his Tour de France also didn't go to plan. "It's true that the Tour was disappointing as my initial goal was a good GC placing, and I wasn't able to achieve that. After I lost time in the first week, our objective changed to a stage win, but unfortunately that didn't work out, either."
Péraud had a great chance to seize a stage victory on July 13, as he got to the finish of stage 12 in Annonay Davézieux in the sole company of David Millar (Garmin-Sharp), but the Brit proved to have the better finishing speed in the end. "It would have been great to take that stage, but that's the way it is," he shrugged.
Another reason for Péraud to spend some time at home after the Tour was the birth of his daughter on July 14. "I almost abandoned the Tour that morning, but my wife told me on the phone to take the start, because it could still take some time. But she delivered our daughter Valentine in the afternoon. It was a great day," he smiled.
The Frenchman hadn't reconnoitred the mountain bike course in Hadleigh Farm, Essex, yet. "I only saw a video of it. It looked beautiful, but other riders have told me that it's not overly interesting to ride. We'll see once I get there," he said.