For the last couple of decades, we cycling fans have witnessed a steady stream of ‘next big things’ in French cycling. This is largely because, as a nation, they haven’t won the Tour de France since the 1980’s, and they’re getting desperate.
It’s only in recent years, however, that some of the ‘next big things’ have actually turned out to be really quite good; although Peraud, Pinot, and Bardet haven’t genuinely looked like winning the Tour de France, they’ve been right up there in contention.
Back in 2013, the ‘next pure French climber’ – Kenny Elissonde – unveiled himself. At the Tour of Oman he managed a 6th placed finish on Green Mountain and 8th place in the race overall, and followed that up later in the year at the Vuelta Espana with a stage win on the Alto de l’Angliru, no less.
And now he’s signed to ride for Team Sky for 2017. I wonder if he’s disappointed that he won’t get to wear Rapha kit?
Cycling is a sport where weight, calorie counting, and food intake, is a constant concern. ‘Train like a horse, eat like a rabbit’, as the pro-cycling saying goes. ‘Eating’s cheating’, as me and my regular cycling buddies remind each other, tucking amateurishly into mid-ride coffee and flap-jack and pretending to feel guilty about it.
None of this angst is a concern to Kenny Elissonde – he weighs in at a child-like 52 kilo’s.
To my friends here in the UK that’s very slightly over 8 stone. To my American readers, it’s a tad under 115 pounds. To any bakers who may have stumbled across my website it’s less than 1,900 ounces, or approximately 63 freshly baked victoria sponges.
Even once you’ve added jam and clotted cream, Kenny Elissonde is a very light pro-cyclist. Which is what makes him a pure climber, of course.
Whether Team Sky can turn him into a Tour de France winner probably hinges on how well they can develop his ability to ride on roads which aren’t going steeply uphill. He was, by all accounts, no slouch in the time trials as an under-23 rider, but the pro-peloton is different.
Mainly because the other riders are quicker.
Watching a rider of the calibre of Nairo Quintana – himself a small man – struggle not to lose time on flat and windy days in the Tour de France in recent years suggests Elissonde is going to have a similar Achilles heel.
And while we’re making the comparison, Quintana weighs in at a positively obese 58 kilos. Or, a bakery busting 68 victoria sponges. In other words, Kenny Elissonde carrying 5 generously filled sponge cakes.
And if that image isn’t part of Team Sky’s marketing campaign for next year’s Tour de France, then they’re missing a trick.
Is Elissonde the next big thing? Will a Frenchman win the Tour de France any time soon? Have Castelli remembered to design the new Sky kit in children’s sizes?
Time will tell.