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Vichot continues to fight mystery virus

B&B Hotels-Vital Concept’s Arthur Vichot in time-trial mode at the 2019 Paris-Nice
B&B Hotels-Vital Concept’s Arthur Vichot in time-trial mode at the 2019 Paris-Nice (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Former French road race champion Arthur Vichot is continuing to fight a still-undiagnosed virus that has affected him for the past 18 months. With his contract with French ProTeam B&B Hotels-Vital Concept set to expire at the end of the year, the 31-year-old's priority is to try to get better as soon as he can.

Vichot was French road race champion in both 2013 and 2016, and joined B&B Hotels-Vital Concept for the 2019 season from WorldTour team Groupama-FDJ, with whom he'd spent nine seasons, since turning pro in 2010.

"I still don't know what it is, and it's become quite difficult to live with," Vichot told French newspaper Le Parisien last week regarding the virus. "It started in Canada after the Grand Prix de Québec, where I finished seventh, in September 2018. I then started to get very tired, and it never stopped."

Last season, Vichot managed to complete just 19 race days, and recorded eight DNFs, but things initially appeared to be looking up this year when he managed to finish ninth on the opening stage of the Etoile de Bessèges in early February, and went on to finish 13th overall at the five-day French stage race.

However, he says he's still not recovered, and was forced to quit the last race he rode this season before cycling's shutdown – the Tour des Alpes-Maritimes et du Var in late February – on the opening day.

"One day I can ride for five hours, and then the next day I'm dead on the couch," said Vichot. "I don't even have the strength to do the vacuuming, and that's not normal for a 31-year-old elite sportsman.

"The worst part is not knowing what it is that I've got, and I'm feeling very low about it," he said. "We don't know what it is. There are so many viruses out there that until it's been identified, I can't get the right treatment."

Vichot said that he had been due to have some more thorough tests done in Brussels, Belgium, in March, but that France's coronavirus lockdown rules had prevented him from being able to do so.

"Nothing seemed to be going Arthur's way over the winter," Vichot's former Groupama-FDJ teammate Thibaut Pinot told the newspaper. "He's a tough cookie, and never really complains about anything, but I know him well and can tell that things aren't great for him.

"One day, things are not too bad for him, and then the next day he just feels wiped out. It isn't nice to see him like that."

Meanwhile, B&B Hotels-Vital Concept team manager Jérôme Pineau is not in a position to be able to pick Vichot for his provisional Tour de France squad.

"His fight right now is to try to be racing again," Pineau told Le Parisien, and Vichot can only agree.

"It wouldn't have been right to have been picked," he said. "How would that have looked when I've not been able to put in the same amount of effort as my teammates?"

However, Vichot's contract will also expire at the end of this season, leaving him with relatively few opportunities to prove himself on the rescheduled 2020 calendar.

"I'm trying not to think about it too much right now," he admitted. "As riders, we're used to having short contracts and living with the uncertainty, and for now I have a more urgent fight: to try to get better."

Vichot will be familiar to many Australian cycling fans as the rider who enjoyed fervent spectator support at the Tour Down Under in Adelaide in 2010, when a random, non-English-speaking rider riding the race for the first time was picked to have a fanclub created in their honour, with the then 21-year-old neo-pro's name written on the roads and supporters wearing 'Allez Vichot Allez' t-shirts throughout the race.