Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Cycling's Talent List Is Short

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Cycling's Talent List Is Short

Article excerpt

SOMEWHERE in the golden fields of Provence, with the rocky hillsides and cypress windbreaks of Cezanne and Van Gogh whizzing by, Laurent Brochard decided it was time to act.

The young cyclist for the French Castorama team, this year riding his first Tour de France, broke away repeatedly from the peloton, or pack, of nearly 150 cyclists humming along at 25 to 30 miles an hour.

It was a bid to "stand out a bit, begin making a name for myself," says the blond 25-year-old, and it would be repeated - futilely - early in the next day's 136-mile stage ending in this Mediterranean city near the Pyrenees.

"Right now I have good legs, so I was feeling this was my chance," says Brochard, his close-cropped flattop contrasting with a ponytail and loop earring. "Maybe it didn't work this time, but I'm just learning," he adds. "Anyway, this is the Tour, and we're here to create a spectacle."

With this year's 2,325-mile, three-week-long Tour de France drawing toward its traditional Sunday-afternoon finale up Paris's Champs-Elysees, Brochard's chances of "standing out" are dimming. But already he has made a name for himself as one of a handful of young professional cyclists to watch.

With Spanish powerhouse Miguel Indurain maintaining a "lock" on what looks to be his third consecutive Tour triumph, attention is turning to the riders who may battle for the Tour victor's yellow jersey in the future. Longtime Tour observers say the field of top-flight new talent is limited - and increasingly marked by names from outside cycling's traditional European bastion.

"Maybe it's just a lull, maybe it's economics, and maybe there's young talent out there that hasn't been discovered yet," says Michel Lefort, a veteran Tour official and cycling observer, "but right now the list of young riders who are showing the stuff of future champions isn't that long."

He and other cycling enthusiasts list Swiss Alex Zulle, Dutchman Eddy Bouwmans, Brochard, and fellow Frenchman Jean-Pierre Bourgeot. From the Americas, there are Colombians Alvaro Mejia and Oliviero Rincon, Venezuelan Leonardo Sierra, and American Lance Armstrong.

Zulle and Armstrong's names come up most often: Armstrong created a "spectacle" of his own by winning this Tour's eighth stage - at the tender age of 21 - before pulling out of the race on his trainer's advice. …

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