Wednesday, 10 August 2022

Cyclist, 10, who dreams of winning Tour de France

A BOY from Crazies Hill is determined to become a professional cyclist despite being injured in

A BOY from Crazies Hill is determined to become a professional cyclist despite being injured in a crash during a road race in the Netherlands.

Pascal Giret, who is 10, was left with two broken teeth and a 4cm deep gash in his chin after hitting the back of another competitor’s bike and falling on to the tarmac.

He was taken to hospital where he had stitches put in his chin wound.

Pascal was taking part in the European Youth Tour in Assen, a tournament for junior cyclists from around the world, but was forced to retire after the crash on the third stage.

Despite this disappointment, he is determined to take part again next year in order to improve and follow his dream.

Pascal, who lives in Holly Cross with his parents Joseph and Magdalena and sister Cecilia, six, started cycling on the racing track at Palmer Park in Reading when he was six.

He then moved to Hillingdon Slipstreamers in Hayes, which has a road circuit and now rides competitively on the road and track.

He uses bikes built by his father, who is an avid cyclist and has competed around the world.

Pascal also trains once a week at  Herne Hill velodrome in London, which was built in 1891 and hosted the cycling event at the 1948 Olympic Games.

After winning several junior races, he was picked up by Velo Club Londres, which is the most successful club in the country for young riders and currently has six junior national champions on its books.

Pascal hopes to follow suit and eventually become as successful as the Team GB riders competing at the Olympics in Rio.

Mr Giret, who is a lawyer and QC, said: “Bradley Wiggins, Mark Cavendish and Geraint Thomas all began in track cycling.

“An awful lot of the riders in the peloton of the Tour de France started using track as their main discipline to develop speed. That’s what Pascal has been learning.

“On the road you’ve got added complications like tactics, hills and descents. The track is just a circle, it’s a purer form of racing.”

Pascal won the London Region Youth Omnium track event in May and finished fifth out of 150 riders in the Paris Roubaix, a one-day race in northern France, having been second at one point.

It was his impressive performance in last year’s Assen race that made him decide to take part this year.

Pascal said: “Last year I came ninth overall and got two fifths and a fourth in the stages. This year I had practised my speeds in time trials so I was quite confident.”

Mr Giret added: “Pascal finished so well last year and was training so hard, he was hoping to win the yellow [leader’s] jersey.

“He was so motivated from his results last year, when he hadn’t trained much, that he spent the year training and hoped to peak for Assen.”

Pascal trained for up to nine hours a week with circuits and time trials as well as turbo sessions, where he practised speed on a stationary bike. More than 900 riders took part in the Assen race, which had six stages over a distance of about 55km.

Pascal, who was on a Campagnolo bike with Mavic wheels, competed in the category for riders aged 10 or under and by the start of the third stage he was just 15 seconds off the overall leader.

He recalled: “On the first stage I was hoping to do better but I was a bit tired. In the second stage I tried to attack to get time back but the Dutch blocked me.

“In England you are taught to put your elbows out to push people away but the Dutch are so big and strong that they don’t need to and I was sandwiched.

“I knew I could pull it all back in the last four stages — I was up there with a chance.”

Disaster struck on the third stage when he was in the “neutral zone”, where riders are told to get up to speed but not race each other, when one of the Dutch riders braked suddenly, causing Pascal to collide with him and fall off his bike.

Pascal said: “They kept braking and the person in front of me did it three times. I wasn’t expecting the third one. I went over the front of the handlebars head over heels and hit my chin. I was about to get back on my bike when I felt a pain.

“I put my fingers to my chin and when I brought them away they were covered in blood.”

He was quickly picked up by a first aid car and doctors applied a gauze to his wound.

He followed the rest of the race in the medical car behind the peloton before being taken to hospital.

Pascal said: “The cut was 4cm deep but straight, so easy to mend with glue and stitches but it was painful.

“The doctor said I could carry on racing but if I crashed again it could get even worse so we decided to drop out.

“You can miss a stage and then carry on but you get the last rider’s time plus three minutes, so it’s really hard to win from there.

“It still hurts now but I was really sad to leave the event — that was more painful.”

Mr Giret, who camped in Assen for the duration of the race, said Pascal was the victim of racing tactics from some of the other riders to prevent them being overtaken.

He said: “Racing on the continent is very different and Pascal had a steep learning curve. What he found out in Holland is that even at this age the Dutch riders are taught to race aggressively.

“He wasn’t prepared for that and neither was I. He tried to attack and was driven almost off the road.

“He had said to me earlier in the week, ‘should I do what they are doing?’ and I said, ‘certainly not!’

“When I understood what they were actually doing I changed my mind and said, ‘if they’re doing that to you, do it back to them’.

“Talented young riders from the UK go to Belgium and Holland to learn race tactics. You only learn to race properly once you’ve been to those countries.

“When I saw Pascal in the first aid tent I was told he was being so brave. When I saw his bike it was a complete mess, the wheels and mechanisms were broken and the saddle was twisted.

“The first thing he said was, ‘I’m never racing Assen again, it’s not fair’ but by the time he had left hospital he had changed his mind.”

After returning to the UK, Pascal experienced pain in his mouth and discovered he had broken two teeth on either side of his jaw, which had to be extracted. But he still wants to become a professional  cyclist and one of his goals is to win the Tour de France.

Pascal said: “I’ve worked hard so hopefully in 10 years I’ll be pro and I will have won Assen by then. 

“I would also love to represent Team GB at the Olympics.

“Winning a gold medal and winning the Tour de France are both amazing in their own ways.

“Overall, the Tour de France is the big prize in cycling — if you win that you can win anything.”

Pascal said he doesn’t have a favourite professional rider as he thinks they are all “great” but he hoped to emulate is Eddy Merckx, who won the Tour de France five times.

In the meantime, he has school to concentrate on and to prepare for the  Assen race next year.

He said: “I’m going to come back better and stronger and I’m going to win.

“I need to learn techniques to avoid the tactics. I want to go back, race well and stay at the front.

“My main goal is not to crash but I want to win it. I want to go and show them how it’s done.”

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