L’Equipe has a good interview with Grégory Baugé, the triple world champion on the track. There’s plenty of detail about the riding, the training and hopes for the Olympics in 2012. But there are two things that stand out from my road-biased perspective: the idea of racism in pro cycling and a contest with Mark Cavendish. In covering them I don’t want to diminish the rest of the interview, the bits I’m picking up are not the main subjects of the interview. You can read some of the highlights of the interview in English over at cyclingnews.com.
I had fun in the finale, when you had to ride up to the front of the peloton to do the sprint. I loved to win. I think a road career would have been difficult for me with my skin colour; the scene is not ready for it yet.
This is interesting to read. Clearly if he feels this is so then I’m not going to contest it. Baugé is French but from the French West Indies, the Caribbean islands that remain total colonial possessions and are run as départements of France. Cycling is popular in these islands and there’s a flourishing local scene.
Riders like Rony Martias have made it to the pro ranks, he’s with Saur-Sojasun and rode the Vuelta last year with Bbox. There are very few non-white riders (a shame Daniel Teklehaimanot couldn’t get a berth at Garmin-Cervélo) but I don’t know what the barriers are here, cycling seems pretty open to anyone with a bike but it’s true to say the sport is also conservative and rural, the pro peloton isn’t reflective of the society it rides in. But that is true for many workplaces. Hopefully Baugé’s success will encourage more, of any background, to try the sport in France.
But the track sprint king did not rule out a possible match against the currently fastest road sprinter, Mark Cavendish (HTC-Highroad), who moreover is no stranger to the track. “That would be awesome, a sprint against him on the road,” Baugé replied when asked if he thought he could beat him. “I think I’d beat him, yes. But I would need adapted material – a road bike is less stiff than our bikes. I would be afraid of putting out all I have.”
This personal but I think this is a circus contest and not really fitting for the riders. Baugé is awesome on the track and Cavendish has a superb palmarès on the road as well as a pedigree on the track. But a match? It just sounds like a gimmick, a stunt. Both riders could gain financially, along with a crafty promoter.
But each rider has nothing to prove, Baugé is fast on the track over short distances, Cavendish is a “sprinter” but only after he’s cleared 200km and some hills. Like I say it’s personal but I don’t feel either rider should be compared too much although if both wanted to do, well why not? Except it would be largely meaningless.
A final repetition that interview wasn’t really about these two points but I wanted to take a quick look at them nonetheless.