There is soon hope for all young promising French cyclists who aspire to become cyclocross specialists thanks to the efforts of powerhouse cyclocross couple Steve and Lucie Chainel.
As of October 1st, they will officially be the proud owners of the first cyclocross-specific team based in France. In their first year, they will be a team of two. Their plan is for this small but solid team to serve as a model of what they will have to offer talented French athletes in the years to come. “We want to build our team up slowly so we do it right as our ultimate goal is to change how cyclocross is viewed in France,” explains Steve.
The team is Crossteam by G4, named after G4 bike clothing owner and professional cyclist Geoffroy Lequatre. “We came in contact with him back in 2012. They sponsored Lucie when she became French Champion,” says Steve.
WHY START A TEAM?
Taking on the stress of starting a team is not really the ideal situation for professional cyclists, but it wasn’t the original plan. Steve explains, “I stopped my contract with Cofidis because they wouldn’t let me race cyclocross. I was paid for the road, but I prefer to do what I love. We have no cyclocross teams in France so back in July I tried to contact the big Belgian ones but they were indecisive. So if we didn’t create this team for the winter, Lucie was going to retire from racing.”
With no other turn-key options on the table, it hit them that they can serve their own needs while creating something special for France’s future cyclocrossers. Steve says, “After age 23 if you want to progress in cyclocross here in France there are no opportunities. Even if a rider like Pauline Ferrand Prevot wanted to choose a French cyclocross team, there are no options for her or others who are at the top of their sport.”
“The idea is to structure our team like the Belgians, as they are successful,” explains Steve. Adding, “We’re talking about having our team look completely professional with mobile homes, matching material like frames, wheels, clothing as well as a full support crew like mechanic, soigneur, masseur. We are not even taking salaries in the first year so all resources can go to the team buildup.”
While it may resemble the Belgian model, Steve plans to make it his own. “We want to add an extra interactive flair to the team presence where spectators feel comfortable to approach the riders. Why not music by my team? One thing I regretted about being a road racer is that we’d wait in bus until very last moment, then go outside and straight to sign-in, passing all those kids’ faces who were waiting a long time outside the bus in hopes for an autograph. I felt so bad there just wasn’t enough time.” Steve also talks about distributing flags with their team logo on it so the fans don’t walk away empty-handed. In addition, there will be a supporters’ store selling hats, caps and such.
AFFECTING FRENCH CYCLOCROSS
In the team’s first year, everything needs to be completely in place to pull off Steve and Lucie’s master plan. Steve explains, “Eventually the French Federation will see what we have going on here and will want to be a part of it, especially when all the young ones are coming to us wanting to join our team.” The plan is to eventually develop junior and under-23 riders, with a planned team of 4 to 5 riders for next season. Once the team is fully on its way, the next step in their plans is to take it to the continental pro level. “Pauline has a two-year contract with Rabobank, maybe after that we can take her,” surmises Steve. Adding, “I envision all the best French riders on my team…and if another team is created in France, then no problem! We work together. I invite all organizations to communicate with me. And if we have too much demand, the more teams the better.”
FIRST SEASON GOALS
The team’s top goal this season is to make sure that everyone knows there is now a French cyclocross team. As for personal designs, Steve says, “I am now 149th on the UCI ranking so naturally I want to improve on that. My objective is top ten for the higher profile World Cups like Zolder and Koksijde. The French Championships are the most important for our sponsors. It would also be nice to have a solid placing at Worlds. I’ve had three top ten’s in the past, so…but most importantly my role on the team is as team leader.”
Lucie [Chainel-Lefevre] also shares similar goals, which are completely feasible for this extremely gifted athlete. What makes her results even more impressive is that she accomplishes everything while being a fulltime mom. From April through July, Lucie transforms into a runner. She also competes with her dad at long distance events up to 70km. Back in May, she competed in the Beijing marathon.
Steve’s first races of the season took place in China at the Qiansen Trophy events. He scored a 2nd at the Yanqing event and a 3rd at the Qiongzhong event three days later. Their first race together was in CrossVegas World Cup where Steve scored 18th and Lucie 24th. But they must wait a bit more before they can race under their new team name as the team’s official kickoff date is October 1st. On this day, they will hold their team presentation and release photos of their new clothing.
The first opportunity to see them racing in their new clothing will be on October 4th at the EKZ CrossTour held in Dielsdorf (Switzerland). This season they plan to contest all of the EKZ CrossTour series in addition to the World Cups as well as other key UCI events.
As they say, if motivation can be the key factor in determining the success of a project, then the Chainels may just lift the sport’s level of professionalism in France. Who knows, maybe France will eventually become the “New Belgium”, although to the Belgians these French events will surely be BYOB.