Blel Kadri, Roma Maxima Winner

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Blel Kadri

Blel Kadri’s win on Sunday certainly Filippo Pozzato by surprise. The Italian triumphantly threw his arms up in the air only to discover that Kadri had crossed the line 37 seconds earlier. It wasn’t just Pozzato who was confused, sections of the Italian media and fans in general were wondering who he is. After the race his name was spelled incorrectly and even the well-informed Eurosport podcast seemed to call him “Gadri” in their latest episode.

But in fact he’s a rider who’s long due a big win and if there’s none of the star factor of Moreno Moser, there’s a very different family tale.

This blog’s been going for almost three years now and from the early days there’s been a draft piece on Kadri, waiting to be pulled out of the folder on the day he wins big. Only it’s taken a long time, I’ve expected him to win a stage of the Tour de France or something similar by now.

Born in Bordeaux, he grew up in Toulouse, another city in the south-west of France. He’s got three brothers, curiously two pairs of twins, all raised by their mother alone according an interview with French website Media Pitchounes. He tried other sports but liked cycling more than anything else. His mother would ban him from cycling if he got bad results at school and when the holidays came she said Blel had to take his bike above everything else.

He first appeared on the media radar in 2002 when he won the Vélo D’Or Cadet prize from Vélo Magazine as France’s best U-16 rider. This marked the start of a long and gradual progression via amateur racing, international appearances to the pro ranks with some impressive results but also some lows, like the 2007 U-23 World Championships when he was sprinting for the win but tangled with Martin Kohler and crashed in sight of the finish line. Peter Velits won that day. He found time to get a university diploma too. Much of this was under the direction of Michel Puntous, a coach nicknamed “The Russian” because of his Stakhanovite training methods but he’s made a name for himself getting several riders into the pro ranks from Romain Sicard to Nicolas Portal, now a Sky DS.

The Pro
Since turning pro he’s been with Ag2r La Mondiale all the time. Often in breakaways but without many results. A stage win in the Route du Sud stage race in 2010 in the Pyrenees not far from his home. 2011 didn’t bring results but saw him rack up plenty of points after eighth place overall in the Tour Down Under, 15th in Paris-Nice, 10th in the Volta a Catalunya, second in the Circuit de la Sarthe, fourth in the Bayern-Rundfahrt. 2012 was saw him crash out of Paris-Nice with a fractured skull and if he rode the Tour and Vuelta later in the year, still no result.

Rue Bourrasol Kadri Toulouse

From Home to Rome
His mother, Setti, runs a modest grocery store in Toulouse. I suppose if she worked in a factory, office or lab then the media could not doorstep her so easily but it’s meant the local newspaper La Dépêche has run articles about Kadri with reference to his mother and the shop, often with Setti Kadri smiling behind the shop counter (here and here).

The shop’s provided the family with an income but it’s also proved risky for Kadri’s climbing abilities with snacks sitting on the shelves. Madame Kadri recounts how the young Blel would return home from training and head to the sofa to watch the Tour de France on TV, detouring via the shop’s shelves to grab two bags of chips and some Camembert cheese as afternoon snack. She ended up changing the layout of the shop as the chips where right by the door to their apartment and since was too easy for him to grab them, she put books in their place. These days his mother has put a TV on the counter to watch him race.

Newspaper reports tell of a shy kid who spends time repairing the bikes of others in his quartier to keep them on the road. And as endearing as tales of his mother and shopkeeping can he, hopefully now he’ll be known as the rider who won the Roma Maxima.

Blel Kadri

stevenl March 6, 2013 at 4:13 pm

It was an exciting win to watch: I kept rooting for him as the break kept widening and shortening. Fair play to him, really well deserved

Darren March 6, 2013 at 7:24 pm


Larry T. March 6, 2013 at 4:31 pm

Thanks for the details! I wondered who this guy was too as it sounded like they were calling him Gadret. Thanks for posting the photo of the smiling winner in his chariot too….we simply got there too late to see the finishing festivities. More details here for anyone who is interested

Rooto March 6, 2013 at 5:12 pm

Is Blel a pioneer for North-African-descent riders? The Arabs get a tough deal here in France, and it would’ve been tougher to break through in a majority-white sport like cycling. If he’s not, then ignore this post!

The Inner Ring March 6, 2013 at 5:16 pm

I suppose we should just see him as French. But looking at it from that angle Nacer Bouhanni is doing fine too. There have not been many pros of North-African origin but you can go back to the 1920s with Abdel Kader Zaaf.

Rooto March 6, 2013 at 5:41 pm

I appreciate the danger of putting people in a box, and there’s no judgement from me. Just interested in his background (and always hopeful for good role-models, but I’ll say no more on that tricky subject).

The Inner Ring March 6, 2013 at 9:24 pm

Sure… and I didn’t read any judgement there either, it’s more that I didn’t think too much of that angle.

wiganwill March 7, 2013 at 12:01 am

Virenque was born in Casablanca.

Joel March 6, 2013 at 6:03 pm

I’m with Inner Ring on this He is French any move to make him something else is just wrong. 🙂

Philippe Maertens March 6, 2013 at 6:28 pm

Without a tactical blunder of his DS Biondi, Kadri would have won Tour Down Under in 2011. Kadri was best-placed rider in a break with 5. Biondi didn’t belief in the break and ordered Kadri to let the others go without him. The other four (with Cameron Meyer) stayed in the front. Meyer won that Tour Down Under…

Espresso March 6, 2013 at 8:12 pm

Nice read, felt for the guy as he won thanks to a huge performance and people were taking about Pozatto losing.

Zinoviev Letter March 7, 2013 at 1:37 am

Kadri featured regularly as a good dude in Nicolas Roche’s newspaper diaries.

Velonista March 7, 2013 at 1:50 pm

Yep. And equally warmly in Roche’s autobiography.

Bonjour Mr Baker March 7, 2013 at 7:21 pm

Yes he did. I’ve recently read Nicolas Roche’s autobiography (a very good present!), he seemed to comment quite a few times on what a strong rider he felt Kadri was, and suggested that it would only be a matter of time hopefully before he started to win races. It looks as though inrng also had Kadri marked out with the draft piece waiting to go! Thanks also for this brilliant blog, always a great read on a such a varied range of topics.

Raouligan March 7, 2013 at 7:31 am

The finishing celebration was a delight, but te photograph is even better for being empty of riders behind him, quite a way to win.

Ankush March 7, 2013 at 8:50 am

Wonderful piece on Blel. I have also, few times, misspelled his name as Biel but it will never happen again. He’s one of the mainstays of Ag2r team and I think Lavenu must have been delighted to see him win Roma Maxima.

gilbert March 7, 2013 at 2:30 pm

in Italy rai tv call him Biel. even when is name is written in the classifications……

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