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Jérôme Coppel

Murcia podium

You might already have heard of Jérôme Coppel. If not, then maybe you’ll be hearing a lot more about him. Twice a medallist in the U-23 World Time Trial Championships, the Frenchman turned pro with FDJ and after two years moved to Saur-Sojasun for 2010. Although he was relatively discreet results-wise, FDJ’s Marc Madiot was furious to learn of the transfer.

Being labelled as a “promising” rider can be a curse in France, the nation – or at least sections of the media – longs for someone to replace Hinault, Fignon or Jalabert. All too often the futur champion turns out to be a solid rider but unable to live up to the hype and hope. See Pierre Rolland for just one example.

But Coppel is starting to deliver. A solid fifth place last year in the Dauphiné saw him track Alberto Contador and Janez Brajkovic on Alpe d’Huez, the kind of performance few Frenchmen have delivered. Now still just 24, he was able to ride at the same level as as Menchov and Contador in the Tour of Murcia last weekend, although the field wasn’t a who’s who of stage racing. Indeed neither Contador nor Menchov claim to be in peak fitness… but does Coppel. He spent the winter at home in the French Alps, cross-country skiing is part of his training when he’s snowed in. No training camps in Tenerife or Sicily here.

This time it’s different
This time it feels like Coppel isn’t hype but a genuine talent. This is not to say he’s suddenly heading into the elite club of potential grand tour wins, far from it. Indeed whether he’s able to stand up to a three week challenge remains to be seen. But when a 24 year old is capable of rivalling Menchov and Contador, you have to take notice. Rendez-vous in July.

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