The French knights traveled to Japan and we landed in Tokyo to go and take their neighborhood in the Olympic Knights Village, away from the “big” Tokyo village. Prior to the start, DirectVelo engaged Stephen Henry, the national endurance coach, on the home stretch to prepare for Team France, which will have ambitions in the peloton races.
DirectVelo: Are the riders in expected shape before they leave for Tokyo? (Interview conducted in mid-July per editor’s note.)
Stephen Henry: We hope, but we have too few trials to measure ourselves against our opponents. The European Championships were interesting (it was due to take place at the end of June but was postponed Editor’s Note). In Fiorenzuola, in the recovery phase, they were in very good shape compared to the competitors. Benjamin was in really good shape. Donovan was snapping up from the spring. Compared to the Watts values we’re observing, they’ve been in the nails.
“Reproduce what has already worked”
Where are your opponents?
We don’t know how the Australians are, the New Zealanders even see the Danes they haven’t seen since Berlin 2020. Everyone has worked, everyone should be in their nails even if passengers from certain countries don’t look unusual. But they may be in other stages of training. The Danes must be scarecrows in America but we don’t know in which state Michael Murkoff will finish the tour. We’ll see there.
Is it important that Benjamin and Donavan participate in the Tour de Wallonie?
Yes, because it allows to return one last roadblock before departure. Otherwise their last race would have been the French Championship and their last block, the Tour de Suisse for Benjamin and the races in Belgium for the “Dino”. Some of our opponents like Michael Morkoff will come out of a big block with the Tour de France and a very small track. We are trying to reproduce what actually worked before the Mundial in Berlin as we mixed the track blocks and the Etoile de Bessèges.
‘As if it was a race like everyone else’
Why was it important to go to 6 days of Fiorenzuola?
They did three consecutive days of Americans. It’s important to get things right the next day. We will need it in France. After the Nations Cup or the World Championships, we do a video debriefing but the next event could be in three months or a year and a half… In Italy, one of the axes of action was doing the sprints in America.
Benjamin Thomas is a favorite for the Open Championship, is it easy to take it?
He doesn’t take the initiative much. He knows that it will be expected, as in Berlin, even if the Olympics remain with a different pressure. We focus on what he does, his willingness, his shopping. We go there like it’s a race like any other, even if it’s easy to say, and we’ll go race after race to rate both of them. With Benjamin, we’ve known everything since 2014. We have Pruszkow’s experience in 2019, where he comes in second only to point zero.
“Work in the role of a substitute”
Morgan Knesky, the alternate will accompany you…
It is important to have an alternative. Morgan fully assumes this situation. He brings with him his expertise. With Virginie Nikes, the mental trainer, we worked on this substitution role, and it’s a very sophisticated role in shared sports, and not so much at home. He is there, engaged in training, brings desire, and eats a banana every time. It is very important to the holders.
For the girls, how did the idea of choosing Coralei Demai for the women’s second speed class come about? (I read here)
We scratched our heads to get a girl out of the chase. But in May, we learned that this speed space is available. Little by little it came and became apparent towards the end of our Roubaix internship. If the girl was really less than that, we wouldn’t choose that option. But they were so close to each other, it was difficult to remove the sixth daughter. We have made a choice to take Clara out of striving to prioritize peloton racing. We’ll play five in pursuit.
“Omnium evening we will focus on MADISON”
How do you feel when you are away from the Tokyo Olympic Village in Izu?
Not much for us. I am a high performer. When there are world titles on Friday at Omnium, in the evening I bother Benjamin to heal him because he is tied to the back. I’m not much of a person to spread out and enjoy the moment. On opening night, whatever the outcome, we will immediately focus on Madison, both for men and for girls. They know me well. We’ll be in world championship mode. We will be in a village where there will only be trackers. We go there to win medals. Perhaps at the end of their events, not seeing other athletes, other disciplines, it may be a pity. But during competitions, the focus is on performance, and they know we’re going to be very strict about that.
And you, have you ever wanted to go watch other sports?
Track at the end of the games. But if we had finished before and we could go watch basketball or handball games, because I love handball, it would have made me happy. But the context is as we do it.
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