AG2R’s Jean-Christophe Péraud believes it’s unlikely we’ll see a French Tour de France winner in the next five years.
“There are very good French riders, who are able to do great things, but it seems to me that none has all the qualities to win the Tour in the future,” Péraud told Cyclingnews. “I hope I’m wrong but I think there is no French rider complete enough to be able to win the Tour.”
France has been without a home winner of the Tour for 28 years. The last of these came when Bernard Hinault took the last of his five titles, in 1985. Since then they have finished on the podium only five times. They came close in 1989 when Laurent Fignon lost by a agonisingly narrow eight second margin to Greg LeMond in the final day’s time trial, still the closest finish to a Grand Tour.
In recent times, Péraud has been one of the best French performers. He finished tenth at his first Tour in 2011, after finishing sixth in the final time trial. Péraud was on course to better that this year, when he crashed out on the mountain time trial just days before the race reached Paris.
He’d already taken a tumble during a recce of the course in the morning, but chose to try and continue. His second crash was the final nail in the coffin and he called it quits. Far from being distraught at having to leave the race so close to the end, Péraud describes it as being a reprieve.
“I had decided not to leave after my first fall, when I fractured my collarbone. I was in a good position, and it would have been nice to finish and get a better placing. I knew that finishing the race would be complicated and painful,” said the Frenchman. “My second crash was in a sense a bit of a relief. The story was finished, that was clear.”
Looking to the future
Péraud is planning to attack the 2014 season in a similar vein to this year with a start in the Tour de San Luis. From there he will head back to Europe for Paris-Nice and the Tour Méditerranéen. The AG2R rider will return to the Critérium du Dauphiné for the build-up to his main goal of the Tour de France.
“It would be a dream to one day to get top five overall on the Tour but it’s very difficult,” explains Péraud. “This year, the conditions were excellent but I could have finished seventh or eighth at best. To gain to more places overall you have to be in top form, to have no glitch and to have a bit of luck.”
At 36, Péraud is in the twilight of his career and his current contract with AG2R-La Mondiale runs at the end of next season. “I feel that the end of my career is getting close,” he told Cyclingnews. “The older you are and the less you seem interesting for people but besides that I still feel at my best.
“[Before he retires] I would like to take part once to the Giro d’Italia. Thus, I would have taken part to the three Grand Tours. I would also like to compete once again in the Vuelta a España.”
After 15 years spent as a mountain biker Péraud made the switch to the road in 2010. While he says he doesn’t regret the move, the Frenchman admits he misses his mountain biking days. “It’s much more fun,” Péraud says. “It reflects more the level of each rider. You can’t cheat on mountain bike. It is a pure pleasure when you ride a mountain bike through the underbrush.”