As François Pervis prepares to defend three titles at this week's World Track Championships in Paris, the Frenchman has been talking about his love of racing away from the boards. In an interview with L'Équipe, the world's fastest man has revealed that he showed promise in cyclo-cross as a junior and once dreamed of riding the one-day Classics, particularly the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix.
Hailing from the Mayenne region in western France, Pervis first emerged on the road, where his local rivals included Ag2r-La Mondiale pros Sébastien Turgot and Damien Gaudin, and Europcar's Vincent Jérôme. "When it came to winning it was either them or me," he says. "Knowing that they turned pro and that at the time I was training less than them, I could perhaps have turned pro myself as well."
The defending world champion in the keirin, sprint and kilo, Pervis confesses that his first love was for the Classics. "I didn't dream of winning stages at the Tour de France but of the cobbled Classics in Belgium, in the same way as a Tom Boonen or [Fabian] Cancellara, even though I wasn't a good enough rouleur to achieve that," he explains, adding, "I wasn't too bad as a cyclo-cross rider either."
Recommended to the French Institute of Sport and Physical Education (INSEP), Pervis went instead down the track route. "I was told that if I trained I could become a world champion, and at the same time the Festina affair was still in everyone's minds. That helped to tip me towards my final decision," says Pervis, who still trains on the road for two hours every week.
The 30-year-old Frenchman, who also set world record marks for 200 metres and the kilometre last year, has never had second thoughts about following his chosen path. "Over three months I made history in my sport. But if I have a small regret it's related to what I wanted to savour when I was young, which was a Monument like the Tour of Flanders or Paris-Roubaix. It's just the fact that I've never experienced that," he admits.
Peter Cossins has written about professional cycling since 1993 and is a contributing editor to Procycling. He is the author of The Monuments: The Grit and the Glory of Cycling's Greatest One-Day Races (Bloomsbury, March 2014) and has translated Christophe Bassons' autobiography, A Clean Break (Bloomsbury, July 2014).
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