Cycling: New team, new challenge

By Brenton Vannisselroy

"It's definitely a challenge and I think it's what I needed, a big refresh. A change of everything." - Jesse Sergent. File Photo / New Zealand Herald.
"It's definitely a challenge and I think it's what I needed, a big refresh. A change of everything." - Jesse Sergent. File Photo / New Zealand Herald.

Jesse Sergent is relieved 2016 has arrived after a year he describes as the worst of his cycling career.

The double Olympic bronze medallist was hoping to join an elite group of Kiwis to ride the Tour de France in 2015, but instead Sergent spent the heart of the season recovering from a bungled shoulder operation.

After being sensationally knocked off his bike by a service vehicle during the Tour of Flanders, it took him months to return from a broken collarbone.

The Feilding rider is starting the year at the road cycling nationals in Napier, which have moved from Christchurch, in the colours of his new team AG2R La Mondiale after five seasons with Trek.

"It's definitely a big change," Sergent said. "I think any team would be a big change for me. I've done five years on the same team so you get pretty comfortable and you know everyone."

"Things just started to get a little bit stale. I think it was more me getting a little bit too used to everything."

After just one training camp with his French team, he will ride for AG2R at the Tour Down Under in South Australia later this month and will embark on a busy classics programme before potentially making his long-awaited Tour de France debut.

"I'm sure there will be times I'm a bit out of my comfort zone and there already has been with the language and trying to learn enough French to get by," Sergent said. "It's definitely a challenge and I think it's what I needed, a big refresh. A change of everything; bikes, staff, the way the team is run, the way the team races.

"It seems like the guys get a lot more freedom to be attacking and they have pretty aggressive racing styles."

"I'm looking forward to it. It should be a fun year of racing."

While attending a third straight Olympic Games is a possibility, Sergent has his sights on three weeks in July.

"The Tour de France is becoming more and more of a race I really, really want to do," Sergent said.

"After doing the Giro [Tour of Italy] a couple of times and the Vuelta [Tour of Spain] a couple of years ago, the Tour is kind of missing.

"I definitely wouldn't want to wind up retiring having not experienced that.

"It's not easy in a French team with French riders, but last year they took foreign riders to the Tour."

And Sergent hasn't ruled out following his Beijing Olympic teammate Hayden Roulston and returning to the track to finish his career.

"I wouldn't count it out altogether and I think it's pretty cool what Roly [Roulston] is doing."

- Radio Sport

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