Sylvain Chavanel wasn't the only French breakaway specialist who retired after the Chrono des Nations on Sunday. Groupama-FDJ's Jérémy Roy also hung up his cleats after the French time trial in Les Herbiers – although he was supposed to have retired the previous weekend after Paris-Tours.
In an interview with L'Equipe on Tuesday, Roy explained how his season was extended beyond Paris-Tours in order to help cover injuries on the team, although just a few weeks before he was due to retire, even Paris-Tours – Roy's 'home race' – wasn't on his programme.
"Three weeks ago, the Groupama-FDJ sports directors met up to work out the end-of-season race programme," Roy told L'Equipe. "A lot of riders were motivated and on form, and the team staff had already started thinking about the 2019 season.
"It mean that I was left a little sidelined. I wasn't going to be doing Paris-Tours, near where I live, and I wasn't going to be doing Il Lombardia with Thibaut," explained Roy.
Roy's great friend, Thibaut Pinot, is also the teammate that Roy raced most with during his career, the French newspaper points out: 392 race days together since Pinot joined Roy's FDJ team in 2010.
"That's more race days than I've done with Benoît Vaugrenard, who I've been on the team with for 16 years," said Roy.
But Roy's end-of-season schedule in the lead-up to his retirement suddenly changed when directeur sportif Frédéric Guesdon sent him a message telling him to get ready for Paris-Tours due to injuries to Ignatas Konovalovas and Jacopo Guarnieri.
It was closely followed on the same day as Paris-Tours by a text message from Pinot – "Keep riding, as we're probably going to need you" – after French road race champion Anthony Roux broke his shoulder blade in a crash at the GP Bruno Baghelli one-day race the same day.
In the week that followed, Roy found himself lining up with Pinot at the Tre Valli Varesine and Milano-Torino, and then Il Lombardia on Saturday.
"I hadn't raced with Thibaut since the Giro d'Italia, and I think the sports directors wanted to give me a little retirement present," said Roy.
He may have been a non-finisher in all three of the Italian one-day races, but not before he helped Pinot to first win Milano-Torino and then take the biggest win of his career so far at Il Lombardia.
"I abandoned Lombardy after having ridden for almost four hours at the front of the bunch to keep the breakaway in check," Roy said. "But I absolutely wanted to see Thibaut again, before I returned to France."
While Roy was supposed to take a flight back to Paris to be ready for what really was to be his last race the next day at the Chrono des Nations in Les Herbiers, the post-race celebrations and media commitments meant that he missed his flight, and instead he accompanied Pinot and his other teammates to Geneva, as they were set to meet with Groupama-FDJ performance director Fred Grappe in nearby Besançon this week.
Roy took an early flight to Paris on the Sunday morning, and then drove to Les Herbiers with team coach, and Thibaut's brother, Julien Pinot, making it in time to finish the Chrono des Nations in seventh place and finish a 16-year-career that has included victories at the Tro-Bro Léon in 2010 and the 2011 GP d'Overture La Marseillaise, and stage wins at Paris-Nice and the Tour du Limousin – all with the same FDJ team, which he joined in 2003.
Roy's last week as a professional ended up being busy, to say the least, but it was a finish to the 35-year-old's career that he won't forget in a hurry.
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