A Tour grimpeur to watch for

While many eyes are justifiably on the Colombian rider Nairo Quintana, expecting him to shine in the mountains of the Tour, a perhaps overlooked contender is the French rider Romain Sicard, riding for Euskaltel-Euskadi and making his Tour debut. Indeed, a few year ago Sicard was touted as France’s up-and-coming star. In 2009, in his first professional year riding as a junior for the Orbea team, Sicard won the junior World Champion road race (beating Quintana into second) and the Tour de l’Avenir overall (beating Tejay van Garderen). This was the start of a four-year French/Colombian hold on the Tour de l’Avenir with Quintana winning it in 2010, then Esteban Chaves in 2011, and Warren Barguil in 2012 – with Juan Ernesto Chamorro in second.

It would seem, though, that Sicard has struggled in subsequent years to make his mark. There have been impressive performances, such as at the Dauphine in 2010 (coming close to a stage win), but a hip alignment problem saw much of his 2011 season affected. He was 5th on the tough Bola del Mundo stage at the Vuelta last year, but has had no recent victories of note.

Sicard is rated as a climber and this is where he has shone in the past. Euskaltel-Euskadi will be stage hunting in the Tour, particularly in the Pyrenees and hoping to secure their fifth Tour stage win. Yes, despite their constant presence in the pro peloton for the Tour, wins have been hard-fought for and difficult to secure – Roberto Laiseka (2001), Iban Mayo (2003), Mikel Astarloza (2009) and Samuel Sánchez (2011).

Sicard climbing the Bolo del Mundo (pic Bike Race Info)

Sicard climbing the Bolo del Mundo (pic Bike Race Info)

Sicard was born in Bayonne and lives in Hasparren, in the French (or Northern) Basque Country, hence his professional association with Euskaltel-Euskadi. He is only the second Iparralde from this part of France to ride for the team, following on from Thierry Elissalde, also from Bayonne, who rode the 1995-95 seasons. According to reporting, when not living the on-the-road life of a professional cyclist, the 25 year old lives at home with his parents.

His build-up this season, according to reports, has been cautious and steady, with a few injuries now behind him, and Sicard is looking to make his presence felt, especially in those mountains close to home. “J’ai envie de me montrer acteur, surtout à l’occasion des étapes de montagne dans les Pyrénées,” he said. There will be plenty of opportunities for him to show himself as a player and the Pyrenees start on stage 8 on July 6 with the stage from Castres to the summit of Ax 3 Domaines. A five-climb monster for stage 9 follows the next day. As Jean Francois Pescheux, one of the Tour’s directors, notes for stage 8, “…the Spaniards will be ready. They are heading into their terrain…” Not just the Spaniards; the Basques too will be ready.

Before Peter Sagan, Sicard already has his finish line moves sorted, here winning the junior worlds (pic AFP)

Before Peter Sagan, Sicard already has his finish line moves sorted, here winning the junior worlds (pic AFP)

Some other Basque posts you may enjoy:

Samuel Sánchez has no shoulders

A political history of Orbea