Bryan Coquard, The Green Knight

Sunday, 3 February 2013

A 20 year old neo-pro with two stage wins in his first race? That’s quite a start for Europcar’s Bryan Coquard. For sure he’s got a long way to go as the opposition in the Etoile de Bessèges was not the best and this is only an early season race. Still, he’s the youngest rider in the race and his margin of victory was so big that when I put a photo on Twitter someone asked if he’d been in a breakaway because he was surely too far ahead of the bunch to have won the sprint.

Only he’s not a new name with Olympic, World, European and National medals across a range of disciplines to go with a long list of victories on the road and track alike.

Just 20 years old and Coquard’s already a cycling aristocrat with more titles than I can list. He’s been junior world champion twice and has had plenty of time to practice his victory salute.  But in 2009 he won the omnium at the track world championships in Moscow and crossing the line he sat up and punched the air… wobbled… and crashed, breaking his collarbone. Fortunately he’d crossed the line and so the rainbow jersey was his.

In the 2012 Olympics he took silver in the omnium race and then another silver medal on the road in the world championships in Valkenburg and seemed to be the fastest in the sprint only he started from far back and Alexey Lutsenko won the race. He ended 2012 with a new title, a Chevalier de l’Ordre national du Mérite or a Knight of the National Order of Merit. Perhaps he can joust with British Knight Sir Bradley Wiggins?

So many titles but one common trait: Coquard is a sprinter with a track endurance background, racing events like the omnium, points race, pursuit and scratch on the track whilst on the road he’s won plenty, often by sprint but not always, see his win in the amateur GP Plouay for example won from a breakaway.

If you’ve got impression of a thick-set sprinter, think twice. He’s small and light, 1.69m and 58 kilos (5″6 and 130lbs for imperialists) which gives him an excellent acceleration… and presumably a useful power to weight ratio to cope with the climbs. This sets him apart from others and makes comparisons with the likes of FDJ’s Arnaud Démare harder. Rather than compare, perhaps we should just observe for now?

Wearing the green jersey of Europcar was only a matter of time. Coquard is from St Nazaire in the west of France and after one successful year with a local club US Pontchâtelaine he moved to Vendée-U, the large feeder team for Europcar where he began to win more and more on the road and track to the point where losing a race became remarkable and he was the wheel to follow in all sprint finishes. Even as a kid Coquard was noticed:

Coquard Vélo

On the cover of a magazine aged 15

Back in 2008 Coquard appeared on the front of Vélo magazine aged just 15, alongside Sébastien Chavanel, then with FDJ (and brother of Sylvain). The idea was a pair a pro up with a promising youngster in “Operation Big Brother.” The irony is that Chavanel is no longer Coquard’s mentor, he is his lead out man as they both ride for Europcar.

Coquard looks more at ease in the cover picture above but dealing with the media hasn’t always been easy. He describes his first world championships in the omnium race:

I fought through the first day in the lead. But the second day was all a bit overwhelming, especially with the media attention. I lost much of my ability.”

Look ahead
No doubt he’s got the talent and the pedigree to win plenty more but we should note his form is also a function of early-season activity. Whilst others spent the winter building the base, Coquard was racing on the track too. He was second in the Grenoble Four Days – with Morgan Kneisky – so fitness might have come more easily than others.

Indeed The likes of André Greipel and Mark Cavendish don’t need to worry yet. Coquard is just another name to add to the list of challengers with Andrea Guardini, Elia Viviani, Reinardt Janse van Rensburg, Arnaud Démare or John Degenkolb. But he is younger and has won more titles than all of them combined.

Instead Coquard’s part of a promising new wave of French cavaliers. Whilst Thibaut Pinot, Arnaud Démare and Pierre Rolland stand out, don’t forget Tony Gallopin, Nacer Bouhanni, Kenny Elissonde, Warren Barguil and Romain Bardet.

Photo: teameuropcar.com

wiganwill February 3, 2013 at 1:33 pm

He certainly has a name that rolls off the tongue.

Reno February 3, 2013 at 2:44 pm

Seems a guy who anticipates the bunch sprint by kicking early, certainly yesterday and I believe similar approach few days ago.

BC February 3, 2013 at 3:32 pm

Its’ good for French cycling that there are suddenly a number of bright, young prospects for the future. Maybe it tells us something about the subtle changes in culture in the pro peloton, but only time will tell !

HodH February 3, 2013 at 4:07 pm

That Velo magazine cover photo is pretty disturbing, and that’s even before you notice Chavanel’s camel toe.

micci February 3, 2013 at 6:51 pm

On the gents it’s referred to as a Moose Knuckle, LOL

Ankush February 3, 2013 at 5:01 pm

no Romain Bardet in the list?

The Inner Ring February 3, 2013 at 5:59 pm

Good point. He did a very good ride in the time trial today so I’ve added him, thanks.

Benjamin Hall February 3, 2013 at 6:05 pm

Cycling is a better place when there are young French riders doing well. Great to see another one coming through.

Gerald February 3, 2013 at 7:16 pm

And almost a third win on the last day in the morning half-stage! Great article Inrng. May I just note that it is Warren Barguil, not Barguin. I really hope we hear a lot from him this year and that he follows a different path than Geniez (another potentially promising young French rider!) with Argos…

bikecellar February 3, 2013 at 7:35 pm

Would be interesting to know what his power output is at say FTP, 5 min, 1 min and 30 secs. He is the same current weight and height as myself, but for sure that’s the only similarity. :). Good to see a new young generation coming good on the road, perhaps another sign that things are changing.

The Inner Ring February 3, 2013 at 7:55 pm

I don’t know but he’s been pursuit champion on the track so he’s more than a light rider with a jump and his sprint at the end of the U-23 worlds last year shows longer distances aren’t a problem either.

G F February 3, 2013 at 9:32 pm

He was 20th in the time trial today, got some longer lasting power too
http://www.cyclingnews.com/races/etoile-de-bessges-2013/stage-5b/results

inopinatus February 4, 2013 at 5:50 am

Funny thing about power histograms. Alone they’re not a great measure of potential, especially in a young rider not yet fully developed. The interesting thing is how they respond to training, and only the athlete and their coaches get to see that.

JLB February 4, 2013 at 12:01 am

There’s a hint of Voeckler’s tongue in there too. Unlike Thomas, he appears to wear normal length knicks. Same can’t be said for the tres petit jersey though.

Paul February 4, 2013 at 3:10 am

I dig this kid’s style kinda a mini-me version of Voeckler but with a good kick for the sprints. Has the same weird interview style as Tommy does where he looks at everything but the people interviewing him.

Guy H February 4, 2013 at 3:40 pm

I knew I’d recognised the name from somewhere. I’d seen him pop up in the Omnium (the track hard-man’s event if I ever saw one) in London, sadly only on tv. Certainly he seems to have the pedigree for a conversion to the road, but the next few months will tell.

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