September 14, 2017

Tony Gallopin

(info about Tony Gallopin)

The desire to surpass oneself

Thomas Kieller

Photo – Copyright Photo News

Tony Gallopin: Cyclist with the colors of Lotto Soudal.

Coming from a family of cyclists, Tony started in this sport early. Under the wing of his father Joël, his uncle Alain and with the family support, he has progress over time to become a complete rider. Indeed, he can do well in many facets of cycling like in time-trial, on a flat road or in the mountains. Nevertheless, the Frenchman from Dourdan, a commune 50 km south-west of Paris, stands more in one-day and classical races. His victory in 2013 at the Clásica de San Sebastián is an evidence of his skills. No doubt that as a puncher he can create rapidly a gap between him and his opponents on hilly terrains. We can remember his victory at stage 11 of the 2014 Tour de France where he has showed his determination in a breakaway and after in a counter-attack which allowed him to beat the peloton at the finish line. With his desire to win and his motivation to train, he has already won at the professional level nearly ten victories.

The interview took place on September 6, 2017 at 16:00 at the Château Frontenac in Quebec City, Canada, a few days before the Grands Prix Cyclistes de Québec and Montreal1 which are two races of the Union cycliste internationale (UCI). The interview was done in French.

Prelude – Tony arrives in a good mood. We take place into the comfortable armchairs of the entrance hall of the Château and we begin our discussion.

Sportive background

Thomas Kieller: How did you begin in the world of cycling?

Tony Gallopin: I come from a family of cyclists. My dad and four of my uncles were cycling racers. Besides, my dad did five times the Tour de France. So, I became quickly really interested by this sport and I started around 10 years old. I don’t remember exactly the age I began, but of course I was with the kids. At that time, I was pretty big and so I was not that good. I was frequently dropped. However, when I was in the junior category, it started to go well for me.

Thomas: I know that you also practiced judo and soccer in your youth.

Tony: Yes, I played soccer when I was a kid and I tried judo also. After that, I went for cycling in the youth categories. I have to say that even before that I went to a cycling school. When I was a little bit older, I started to win races. After, when I was in the junior category, I joined the French team and it’s from that moment where it became more serious for me concerning cycling.

Thomas: Like you said, your family was well implicated in this sport. Did your entourage help you progress in it?

Tony: Yes, I had the chance to have a father who was really close and also really patient. Like I told you, I was not really good and I was dropped all the time, but he never said a negative thing. He gave me always advice in order that I could progress. When it became more serious, my uncle Alain Gallopin, who is now a sports director with Trek Segafredo, brought me other cycling knowledge. It might be small things but they were more precise and that allowed me to progress even more.

Thomas: In junior category, you imposed yourself very much in the time-trial events. How did you develop your overall cycling skills?

Tony: I live south of Paris, at approximately 50 km. It’s a region which is really flat with a lot of wind. When I was young, I was riding a lot on those flat roads. This way, I worked my resistance for a 10 to 30 minute efforts by riding into the wind. It became my main quality when I was younger. It’s when I was a junior and an amateur that I started training in the mountains and to work sprints. I did not do that when I was younger and that allowed me to progress in those aspects. After, as a professional, I worked with team trainers who showed me some small things that help me progress more in numerous facets of cycling. It’s from that point that I became diversified.

Training of a cyclist

Thomas: During the off-season, what do you do for workout in a gymnasium concerning your strength and your muscular endurance?

Tony: Actually, I take a lot of time of rest after the season, meaning in winter. I take a pause of about five weeks without doing sports at all. I go on vacation and I do some projects in my house. Thereafter, I start again the basics in cycling. I use a fixed-gear bicycle a lot. It’s a track bike with brakes that I use outside. I go for two or three hours and I work all the aspects on hilly terrains. When I arrive in an ascent, I work my strength because I ride with a 44-18 gear. In résumé, I can ride simply on flat grounds, I can work my strength when I go up and I go with a lot of velocity downhill. In November, I go easy concerning cycling. On the other hand, I do a lot of swimming exercises and gymnastics rather than working with weights. I’m not really an adept of pushing weights. I do exercises with a Swiss ball, abdominal movements and some jogging as well. So, I do a “general physical preparation”. It’s the appellation that we give to this since my youth. In short, it’s what I do in November.

Thomas: Besides, what is the typical training that you do to improve your cardiorespiratory system?

Tony: After a quite easy November, I become more serious in December. I have the opportunity to have near my home the velodrome of Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines which is the biggest track in France. I train a lot there. We have a trainer. So, I can ride behind a motorized vehicle. Moreover, I bike in the mountains. I also do some training camps with the team in Spain where we ride for five hours and during that time we work our strength in the ascents. I’m a person who takes it easy in winter because my physical conditioning comes back really quickly in February. I won a time trial in the beginning of the season at the Étoile de Bessèges. My form comes quickly. So, I try to not do to too much intensity concerning cardio like doing short exercise efforts. I rather train on long strength efforts. For example, when I ride I do 50 turns per minute in the ascents. I prefer to train this way rather than in pure intensity.

Thomas: I see that you vary a lot in your training. About the ascents, is it for this that you go to Spain?

Tony: Yes. With the weather in Paris, it’s a little bit a hassle. I go also in the south of France, on the Côte d’Azur. It allows me to ride under the sun and to ride on flat roads on the coast. If I want to do some ascent in the mountains, I can go simply in the lands where I do 10 to 15 km cols. So, it’s a place where I can work well. For me, it’s perfect to go out on flat roads and on hilly places, especially in the beginning of the year. If I go directly to a training camp in altitude in January and I’m not ready, it could be risky. I prefer taking my time by varying the training paths and by enjoying the good weather.

Thomas: When you train, do to you do it by yourself or in a group? And does group training motivate you do to more?

Tony: When I leave for the south of the country or for a training camp, I prefer to train alone because I have my program and I like to respect my power threshold by doing what I want concerning the number of hours to cover. But it’s true that when I’m in Paris and I go for five to seven hours rides, I like to do it with my friends. It’s more enjoyable. However, when there is more specific work to do, I prefer to go alone.

Thomas: What would you like to improve concerning your physical conditioning or about the technical aspect of cycling?

Tony: I try to always improve my explosiveness in the sprints because it’s a thing that you can lose easily. You must always challenge yourself. During races like the ones in Quebec City and Montreal, you must go fast during the sprint. It finishes often with 20 to 30 cyclists. If you want results at the professional level, you must always go fast at the sprint.

Thomas: One can see that a cyclist must be in a compact position on his bike, particularly in a time trial. Do you do flexibility and suppleness exercises in order to avoid aches the next day of a race?

Tony: Nothing special. You know where are quite use to the position on the bike. It’s natural for us. All year long but more particularly in November, December and January, I try to do gymnastics and muscular strengthening of the core. During the season, I try to do also some stretching like two to three times a week in order to keep my suppleness. Stretching is really important.

Thomas: So, I see that you do some stuff concerning this. But I understand as well that you are used to maintain this position.

Tony: The toughest part is when we start back training because we lose our physical conditioning really quickly. When we come back, we can easily have back aches and some other things. There can be some small numbness, but the training goes so fast especially when we go to Spain with the team where we do camps in December and January. We do there two camps of 10 to 15 days. We ride everyday day for four to six hours under the sun. It comes back naturally. In brief, it’s our work and it’s a habit.

Attitude during a race

Thomas: As a cyclist, you take part of long races such as the Tour de France. What is the attitude one must have in a race that last three weeks?

Tony: I had the chance to participate at the Tour de France. I have already done seven. You must know that the season of many cyclists is divided in three parts. The first one, we prepare for the classical races such as Paris-Nice, Paris-Roubaix and Liège-Bastogne-Liège. From April to June, we take first some rest and after we prepare ourselves for the Tour de France. During this period, we do of course a lot of mountain preparation. It’s during that time that we do the training in altitude. I go often to Sierra Nevada, Spain at more than 2,000 meters of altitude for two weeks and some years for three weeks. Then, we do a race like the Critérium du Dauphiné which is an excellent preparation before the Tour de France. We also do frequently some stage recognitions. This way, we arrive 100% prepared physically and mentally because we know that there will be some difficult times. It’s such an incredible event that we never think about quitting. We know that it will be tough, but the joy and the pride to finish the Tour are so important that it pass over everything. In the end, we forget. Indeed, we know that there will be horrible days, but two days after we say that was nothing. In brief, everybody is ready physically, but you must be mentally ready to.

Thomas: I presume that the approach is completely different for a one-day race?

Tony: The one-day races are often the ones that I prefer because of the adrenaline. It’s D-Day which you cannot miss out. For the Tour de France, we know that we leave for three weeks and there are some racers like me who don’t race for the overall classification. We know that there will be good and bad days. Indeed, there is some stress but we know that we can be dropped. However, for the Grand Prix Cycliste de Québec or the one in Montreal, you must do well Friday or Sunday (the days of the races), not Thursday or Saturday. Ultimately, we have an ambition and we want a good result. The pressure builds gradually until the race comes and we have to be ready that day.

Thomas: I will come back to the Tour de France where you had your share of success especially during the 2014 edition. You have worn the yellow jersey during stage 10. However, I want to put more emphasis on your victory at stage 11 where you did a breakaway, but three competitors came back on you. Then, you did another attack at three kilometers from the finish line in order to win the race a few meters in front of the peloton. When you go like this in solo or in a small group, what is your mindset?

Tony: Every time we try a breakaway, we do it to win. It can be a final ascent, a final for punchers, a breakaway in the morning or a sprint, we always do it because we have the ambition to do it and to win. Concerning the Tour de France, I have done it several times and I had the chance to win a stage. It’s very difficult because the best riders of the world are there. Everybody is ready physically. When you are in a 20 cyclists group, the problem is that those 20 cyclists are really good and all of them want to win the stage. The first thing is that you must be in this breakaway which is not that simple. After, you must have excellent legs, meaning the best of the group. Then, you need a little bit of luck which will allow you to win the stage. So, it’s a mixture of ingredients that make you win a stage in the end. In brief, of the 200 riders who start the Tour, 15 of them are going for the overall classification and the others dream about winning a stage. You can see the places are quite cherished. It’s not easy to do it when you know that the sprinters will win eight stages and eight other stages are in the mountains. When you can win a stage, it’s incredible.

Thomas: Is it with training and situations like this one that a cyclist forges his character?

Tony: Yes, we all train to win a race. So, when we don’t win there is frustration. We must work many hours, do sacrifice on meals, on rest and also on activities that we will like to do. When we go through one or two month or even one year without winning, it weighs. We think about it during training and for sure we want to win. Of course, there are small and big races... but to win at the Tour de France whatever happens it changes the life of a racer and his life in general because the Tour is an enormous event.

Thomas: Thank you Tony for your input in cycling.

Tony: Thanks.

1. For the purpose of this article, Tony finished 9th at the Grand Prix Cycliste de Québec and 6th in the one in Montreal.