The France team is aiming for several podiums at the world championships which start Wednesday, February 20 in Austria.
It wants to confirm its good momentum of the Pyeongchang Games, in a very demanding discipline that evolves far from the world of sports performance overcharged.
Out of the shadows ? Who knows ? The ambition is in any case more than ever displayed by the Bleus cross-country skiing. From Thursday, February 21 afternoon, they will be aiming for the podium of the sprint event that launches the World Ski Championships in Seefeld, Austria. A competition far from the spotlight experienced by their cousins of alpine skiing, whose Worlds have just ended in Sweden, or those of biathlon from March 6, in Sweden too.
In ski, Alexis Pinturault imperfect savior of France
The French founders know the music: their discipline remains the poor relation of the big white circus, and their performances at the last Games in Pyeongchang hardly change the situation. The Blues returned from South Korea with two bronze medals in team sprint and the 4×10 km relay, the best Olympic record in their history. "But after a few requests in the aftermath of the Games, the soufflé quickly fell backsays Cyril Burdet, the coach of the group of sprinters. On the one hand, we do not care about it, because we can prepare ourselves calmly, in our corner and be proud of this team which is constantly progressing. On the other hand, a little frustration remains to see all the work done which remains quite confidential. "
"The ponies" no longer have complex
Running in the anonymity of a terribly restrictive discipline, it is the law of the hards at the bottom evil. It takes, the temperament, to add more and more in the surpassing oneself for, on arrival, sluts or almost. Especially since it is always a question of going to seek excellence with the means of the edge. "Our federation does not roll on gold, and it's every year more difficult because the costs continue to increase, says François Faivre, the head coach of the France team. We try to do well with little, and on the international circuit, we have acquired a reputation as resourceful, that others moreover observe more and more. The main change for us is there: in the eyes of the flagship nations like Norway and Russia that operate with budgets ten times higher. With our system D, we are still on their heels. The competition is wary, and it's quite pleasant. "
PyeongChang Games, France 4th and 5th place champion
So, the Blues have relaunched in the summer of 2018, after the post-Olympic break, with the same appetite they have been feeding for almost five years. For the sprinters of the sprint, the previous Olympiad was under the sign of the collective identity. The band of four – Lucas Chavanat, Baptiste Gros, Renaud Jay and Richard Jouve – was nicknamed "The ponies" to say his capacity for self-mockery, especially masking his desire to fight. "We have broken the mental barriers to the big nations, and now, on this new cycle, with guys between 24 and 27 years old in full physical maturity, the complexes are over", summarizes Cyril Burdet.
The speech is not bragging: on the World Cup events, since the beginning of the season, Lucas Chavanat has placed twice in the top three; Baptiste Gros and Richard Jouve, once each. "It would be a real disappointment not to bring anything back from Austria"warns Cyril Burdet.
Maurice Manificat, on behalf of his
In bronze in South Korea, the group of long-distance specialists would also see a repeat of its feat. History to mark the spirits, but not only on their flagship relay event. "The skiathlon and the 50 km are also important to us", warns François Faivre.
All eyes, suddenly, turn to Maurice Manificat. The Savoyard had been the hero of Pyeongchang, relay runner but also exceptionally involved in the team sprint bronze. It prevents ! He finished in tears his 15 km, fifth to five small seconds of an individual Olympic podium after which long-distance tri-color cross-country skiing has always been running. "I should have done it, because we deserve it so much"he had commented, disappointed.
See you soon 33, the vice-world champion of the 15 km free in 2015, dream of revenge. Even if the champion, who swears by the regularity, must be the idea to be this season connected to alternating current. " He had to adapt by focusing on goals and not wanting to run everything, comments François Faivre. But he can make us a big race on these Worlds. " For him, and the others, those humble people who deserve so much.
Jules Lapierre, the next generation
Past fashion, the most traditional Nordic skiing specialties? Yet young people are ready to take on the many sacrifices that discipline demands. Including Jules Lapierre, the fifth man of the France long distance team, who participates in Austria at its first Worlds. The guy, world champion under 23 last year in Finland on the 15 km free, represents with Clement Parisse, 25, the future of the Blues. " He is very fresh, not afraid of anyone, always very detached from the stress of competition, boasts the national coach, François Faivre. It's a super hope and it's encouraging and thrilling for the future. "