France’s Dorian Foulon made history in August when he became the first para-cyclist to compete in the able-bodied Tour de l’Avenir. Foulon, who trains with Arkea-Samsic and raced for Nouvelle-Aquitaine at the UCI Nations’ Cup U23 race, regularly competes in the C5 para-cycling category due to a clubfoot that, although operated on numerous times, left him with atrophy of his limb. But that proved no impediment to the 21-year-old rider in an exciting race won by Norway’s Tobias Foss.
The 10-stage Tour de l’Avenir is regarded as the equivalent of the Tour de France for the world’s best young riders. Former winners of both races include Miguel Indurain (ESP), Laurent Fignon (FRA) and, more recently, Egan Bernal (COL). Foulon’s appearance proved memorable for both him and para-cycling as a whole. Here we catch up with the man of the moment…
Dorian, congratulations on your participation in the Tour de l’Avenir. What was your reaction to being selected for the squad?
“I felt great pride and honour, and would like to take this opportunity to thank the FFC [Féderation Francaise de Cyclisme or French Cycling Federation] regional committee of Nouvelle Aquitaine for this selection. The level was very high with the best young cyclists from nations all around the world. My appearance was reward for everyone who’s supported and encouraged me.”
What was your role in the race?
“I’m a rouleur and sprinter so, predominantly, I followed the breakaway. Also, I played an important role in the team time trial [stage two; 32km from Eymet to Bergerac; Nouvelle-Aquitaine finished 22nd] because I was the most experienced member of the six-man team.
“For my part, everything was going well until the sixth stage. But then the cold and the rain sapped my strength and I was forced to retire. But the race will forever remain an extraordinary memory and unforgettable experience.”
As well as competing for Nouvelle Aquitaine, you race and train with Arkea-Samsic. Tell us more…
“The Arkéa-Samsic team has supported me since the beginning of the year. The General Manager Emmanuel Hubert, and Sports Director Yvon Ledanois, followed my amateur results with interest. I was then invited to take part in a training camp with the team. It’s been a rewarding partnership and has helped me to two further amateur wins this year.”
How has your 2019 para-cycling season gone so far?
“I took part in the European rounds of the World Cup. In Corridonia, Italy, I finished fourth in the time trial and third in the road race. And then in Ostend, Belgium, I achieved a personal-best time-trial time [of 38:06mins] in finishing fourth, behind the winner and reigning UCI World Champion Daniel Gebru.
“As for the remainder of the season, I’ll be competing in the UCI World Championships that are taking place in Emmen (the Netherlands) next week (from 11-15 September). My goals are to finish top-five in the time trial and podium in the road race.”
What’s been the highlight of your para-cycling career so far?
“My greatest memory is my first World Cup win in Maniago, Italy, in 2017. The victory gave me confidence that I have what it takes to compete in the biggest, most beautiful races on the circuit.”
Describe your path to the elite ranks, please.
“I started competing at the age of 14, but I didn’t have many choices because of my foot. However, my now coach, Christophe (Dizy), spotted me at 16 years old and I’ve worked my way up the rankings ever since.”
“Christophe has been my coach for five years now. He’s present every day and I even share scooter sessions with him! We’re very close because his advice goes beyond training. His vision of racing is often close to reality. He knows cyclists perfectly and is a great strategist.”
How many hours do you train each week?
“On average, around 10 to 15 hours per week, rising to a maximum 20 hours per week two or three times a year when my goal race is approaching. It’s intense but still far off the workloads of many professional cyclists my age, but Christophe wants to ensure I remain healthy so is increasing my workload gradually. When it comes to the specifics, I train with a heart rate monitor but will also train by power in 2020.”
Where are you based?
“I live in Urt, a small village in the south west of France, in the Basque Country on the border with Spain. I’ve lived at the Pôle Espoir de Paracyclisme for five years. It’s a federal structure that brings together the best young French para-cyclists. There are five of us, aged from 16 to 25.”
2020 is a big one – the Paralympics in Tokyo. What are your aims?
“Of course, the first goal is to qualify for the Tokyo Games. But merely participating won’t be enough. My objective would be to bring back a medal – and why not the most beautiful?”
Finally, can you compare your experiences in able-bodied and para-cycling, please?
“There’s a lot of respect between athletes in both disciplines of the sport. It’s great that the UCI sees para-cycling on the same level as able-bodied cycling. Of course, there’s not the same visibility compared to able-bodied races, but the organisers and UCI are making great efforts. There’s also an increasing number of para-cycling events broadcast on the internet. It can only be good for the development of our great sport.”