The Best from France

David Moncoutié (born April 30, 1975, Provins, France[1]) is a French professional road racing cyclist with the French team Cofidis, with whom he turned professional in 1997. He is a climber, and won his first professional race in a mountain stage of Dauphiné Libéré.



[edit] Origins

David Moncoutié grew up in a soccer-loving family in which nobody had raced on a bike.[2] He was introduced to cycling by a friend, having played football until he was 16. He gained his baccalauréat in biology His father, mother and two sisters worked for the post office and wanted him to work there as well.[3] Friends suggested he join them for a ride. He said: “They all had beautiful racing bikes, I had a sports bike that was nothing to talk about… and I dropped them right from the start. I said to myself,’ Tiens, you’re not going to be too bad!’ and I joined the Entente Vélocipédique Bretenous-Bars, my village in the Lot. I won from my second race.”[4]

He continued playing football but abandoned it when cycling took over at 19. He had dreamed of winning a mountain stage in the Tour de France after watching the Colombian rider, Luis Herrera outride Europeans in the Tour in the 1980s.[2][4] Moncoutié was a boy and thought anybody could turn up and ride the Tour.[5] In 1995 he joined the club at Blagnac, the airport district of Toulouse where Airbus builds aircraft, and took his exams to join the rest of his family in the post office.[4]

Since the start, for me cycling was all about pleasure. When I started I didn’t think, for example, that one day I would ride the Tour de France. In a way, I am like a weekend cyclist who gets on his bike on a Saturday or a Sunday simply for the pleasure. OK, I suppose with age you start to assume a bit more responsibility and see it more like a job. But for me, the most important thing is that I enjoy it.[2]

[edit] Professional racing

He was seen at Blagnac by the team manager, Cyrille Guimard, who offered him a place at Cofidis, a French team sponsored by a money-lending company. He joined in 1997 and has ridden for the team ever since. Moncoutié said:

It was the day before the national éspoirs championship in 1996. I was an amateur with the VC Blagnac and doing my national service with the Bataillon de Joinville[6], but I’d never made much of an impact and I hadn’t won the least international race. On the other hand, I had a small reputation as a climber. I’d spoken to Guimard a couple of times on the phone and he came to see me, a contract in his hand.”[3]

He finished 13th in the Tour de France in 2002, saying: “I’m not capable of following the leaders.”[7] He finished in 2003, shaken by the speed. He said:

That season, I won a stage of the Tour du Pays Basque, I came 13th in the Tour of Catalonia and sixth in the Dauphiné Libéré, so I said to myself ‘Why not?’ I was hoping to end up reasonably high in the general classification. But in the Tour, that’s madness. From the Vosges, I realised that the best I could hope for was a stage. I’ve often heard it said that I could finish in the first five of the Tour de France. It’s a dream! Me, I’ve never believed that. I’ve always fixed myself realisable objectives that matched my way of riding and my convictions.[7]

His breakthrough was when he won a stage of the 2004 edition of Tour de France to Figeac. The following Tour de France he won the stage from Briançon to Digne-les-Bains on Bastille Day, guaranteeing him a place in the hearts of French fans.

Moncoutié said: “A single stage, that could seem a bit thin but for me, that’s enough. The emotion that I felt was enormous. In one day, I had saved my Tour.”[7]

He won a stage in the Dauphiné Libéré in 1999, the Tour de l’Avenir in 2000, the Tour of Limousin (2001), the Critérium International (2002) and the Tour of the Mediterranean (2003).

David Moncoutié on his way to winning the eighth stage of the Vuelta 2008.

[edit] Personality

He is known as a humble person, and many have compared his mentality to that of a recreational cyclist who enjoys riding his bicycle. In the past he has been criticised for lacking aggressiveness and for haplessness. For a while he was not able to put on a rain cape without having to put his feet on the ground.[2][3][4]

The magazine Vélo said he had a “calm and a lucidity, a way of talking openly, something too of a rage hidden behind a smile, for him, a little painful.”[8]

He is known as a clean cyclist who relies on Homeopathy.[3][2] François Migraine of Cofidis said: “Everyone is more or less unanimous that David Moncoutié doesn’t dabble [in drugs]. I would have 10 of him in the team if I could. He wins three races a year and he still manages to finish in the UCI’s top 50. It goes to show that you don’t have to dabble in drugs to have a career in cycling.”[9]

When Cofidis was at the centre of a doping scandal in 2004, one of those at the centre of events, Philippe Gaumont, wrote that Moncoutie did not follow most riders in taking drugs.[10].

His team-mates have joked that while they are eager to try the latest and lightest equipment, Moncoutié would be happy riding on wooden wheels. Moncoutié said: “Equipment, even the latest technology, that’s not my thing. What I like is to be on my bike and to ride. That’s when I’m happy.”[11] His directeur sportif, Eric Boyer, said:

David is a loner. He’s happy in a group but he doesn’t need it to live. When I came to the team, I said to myself, as other people must have, that I was going to try to change him, to chivvy him up so that he got more involved, that he raised his ambitions. Today, I realise that even if I find one or two keys to open the door, I won’t get very far. It doesn’t interest him. He just wants to be left in peace.[7] 220px-david_moncoutie_tour_2002

Fun Run Robbie’s 10 Tips for a good Ride

The simplest option when planning a ride is to follow part of the National Cycle Network, as do the majority of our upcoming route recommendations. The network now stretches a boggling 10,000 miles across the UK, one third of which are traffic free (visit the Sustrans website for more details). But whichever route you take, bear in mind these tips to make your ride as enjoyable and hassle-free as possible …

1. Plan your route carefully. If creating one yourself, try to devise a circuit with your home in the middle so you can take a short cut if you get tired, run out of time or have mechanical trouble. Factor in the wind direction so you start your ride by going against it and ending with the wind behind to push you along as you get tired. Avoid major roads where possible.

2. Think about the time of your ride. If you have the option, choose morning: in winter the temperature rises making things progressively more pleasant, and in summer it’s cool. Try not to ride for an hour after a heavy meal – so if setting out early, breakfast light.

3. Look after your bike. A clean, oiled bike feels better to ride – mainly because a well-lubricated chain makes pedalling easier. Invest in a track pump so you can inflate your tyres up to the manufacturer’s recommended pressure immediately before you go out – that reduces rolling resistance and makes you go faster.

4. Wear sunglasses and a helmet. The latter is self-explanatory, the former keep bugs and dust out of your eyes. There is nothing worse than a beetle getting under an eyelid as you go downhill at 30mph. Apart from on the sunniest days, put a waterproof top or gilet in your pocket, even if it’s not raining: if you halt for more than a few minutes, to repair a puncture or have a cup of tea, you will cool down.

5. Put a little thought into what you will eat and drink. If you are riding for more than an hour and a half, eat a carb-rich snack during the ride to avoid getting “hunger-knock”. Take a bottle of sports drink or water. If you think you might need a top-up – on a hot day, for example – factor this into your route plan.

6. Don’t charge off in top gear. Aim for a relatively high pedalling rate; somewhere between 85 and 110 revs per minute is about right, but the key thing is it should feel comfortable, with the gear spinning rather than your legs forcing it round. You will go further and faster in this way. Don’t be ashamed to change gear for windy bits of road or small hills.

7. The oldest trap on the road is the hill that looks insignificant but has you gasping well before the top. So begin each hill in a low gear that is comfortable, remaining seated in the saddle. When you are halfway up, think about going a little faster or changing up a gear or two – if you can.

8. Don’t hug the kerb or you will find yourself forced into potholes and drains. You may well find a strip of smooth tarmac about 18 inches out from the edge where car and lorry tyres have worn a path that is a little faster to ride on. If traffic permits, choose a line that allows you the option of going to the left or right of any potholes; if you have to go to the right, look behind before moving out. If a car is coming up behind you, “bunny-hop” the pothole by shifting your weight from front to back as you go over the hole, lifting your front wheel slightly.

9. On descents, if you are travelling at over 25mph, drift further out into the road (still keeping to the left of the white line!) so you have more time to cope with changes in surface, holes and corners. Cars will be less likely to overtake you – you will be travelling faster than they do on sharper bends, so you don’t want them in front getting in the way.

10. And finally, try to appreciate your surroundings. This is not just about getting from A to B as fast as you can. That, obviously, is for car drivers.
Guardian offer: buy your Sustrans cycle maps at half price!

Many of the 40 routes we have selected for you (and a lot more besides) are shown in detail on the full-colour Sustrans Discover series of maps, covering much of the UK’s National Cycle Network. To encourage you to ride these routes, Sustrans is offering Guardian readers many of its maps at half price throughout March.

All of the maps listed below are available at the special price of £3.99 including postage and packing (RRP £5.99 + p&p). You can buy any two maps for £6.99 inc p&p – and maps marked with an asterisk are just £2.99 inc p&p.

Sustrans’ acclaimed “Cycling in the UK” guidebook – with details of 148 of the best signed routes on the network and 43 top family day rides – is also available at the special Guardian offer price of £10 including p&p (RRP £14.99).