Warren Barguil was all smiles on Sunday evening when he met the media. By becoming French champion, he ended a long period of doubt. He became himself again. For him and to his Arkea-Samsic team’s greatest satisfaction, a new cycle has just started.
Warren, what does this French champion title mean to you?
I think about the people who reached out to me during this difficult period and who have been positive with me. Those who had only negative comments, I leave them on the side. Yes, some people reach out to you when you hit rock bottom, they help you find solutions, it’s important and I thank them. There’s no revenge here, I think there are cycles in cycling. I am not superhuman. I’ve just been through a tough period but it’s not a revenge. I’ve always had these legs, I just had to find them back just like I had to find my morale again. I’m very happy with myself.
You had tough moments ?
I doubted. It’s not been easy, I wanted to quit cycling at some point but my wife has been supporting me a lot and I did not give up. I think that it’s life, there are tough moments and very good moments and I understand that the thing is to not give up. I thank my wife, my family and my team who all helped me through this. I told myself that if I quit cycling, I might come to regret it a week later and for my whole life.
You always say that there’s more to life than cycling
Cycling is a pleasure for me, I never wanted to be a pro it was not my goal, and pleasure is a guide to my life. When I don’t enjoy myself, I can’t see why I should continue. I was starting to not enjoy it anymore and that’s why I doubted a lot. I don’t ride to make money or to justify my salary. It’s my passion, I love riding with my friends, or in a peloton. If this passion is gone and everything around me is negative, then I’d be better off selling cars, because I’ve been dreaming about this since I was a kid.I also know that critiques help you get better and you should not forget about the bad times. I’m tenacious, I’m courageous but a lot of parametres had changed. I changed teams and coach, it’s never easy. After 2017, I needed to take a break, I got married, I enjoyed my life, which is not all about cycling. I took nice holidays and then I tried to come back too quickly. At the beginning of the season, I was feeling good but I didn’t get lucky, I crashed heavily twice.But now I’m in a good place with two great news – I’m gonna be a dad and I’m French champion.
Is this title a relief ?
Tonight I’m thinking about myself and my team. We knew it was a hard course and that the way the race unfolds is a factor. In Vendome, 10 years ago, I was in the early break , a big group came back and I jumped away with 10km left to become junior French champion. When you’ve been French champion once, you always hope it’s gonna happen again even if the course does not perfectly suit your abilities.
Your team did a great job in the breakaway?
When the breakaway took shape, we were four or five to bridge the gap, and I’m with Madouas and Martin. The pace was high. I told myself that if they would stop working behind and we could take three minutes it would be hard for the bunch to rein us in. The gap was the key. The whole team did a great job. Florian Vachon, our road captain, calmed me down two or three times and I thank him for that. When I’m in front I don’t like to hide, I find it useless. Some riders did that too much. I took a lot of turns but I wanted to put some life into this breakaway. At one point I thought we would not make it because a lot of riders stopped taking turns. Everyone was at the limit.
What happened two kilometres from the finish when you attacked ? Did you get cramps ?
I did not get cramps but my legs were hard and I saw that Madouas was coming back. I told myself it was useless to stay five metres in front of him. I waited for him. There were two Cofidis riders left for the sprint to one of them was gonna launch. Damien Touze did the job for Simon. Tulik launched the sprint, I gained speed and overtook them one by one, I told myself it was not possible. I waited for the last moment to start my sprint. It was not done until I crossed the line. Guillaume Martin did a great attack in the last kilometre but it was not enough. I had already burnt energy to rein Valentin Madouas in, I did not ask anything to anyone. I was feeling strong. I worked a lot on the distance to be in shape today. The distance is an important factor in a championship race. If it had been 200km the scenario would have been different. I don’t win often but when I do, it’s on big races. I’m proud of myself.
How do you feel about riding the Tour de France with the blue, white and red jersey?
Tomorrow I’m going on a recovery ride with the jersey, I’m super proud, it’s hard to think of myself with this jersey on the Tour. It’s incredible. My goal will be to chase stage wins but being more intelligent than last year when I threw some chances away. I will try to be more clever and to not do too much. This jersey does not put pressure on me, it’s pure passion. The pressure comes during training when I do everything to be ready for the Tour de France.