10 days with the French Paralympic Cycling Team

In Tokyo, the original organizers of the 1964 Olympics and the more recent Summer Olympic Games, are hosting the Paralympic Games from August 24th to September 5th, 2021. Matsumoto had the honor of welcoming the French Paralympic Cycling Team from August 15th to 25th as part of the preparations for these games. The athletes were able to utilize the exceptional setting of the city for their training. Welcome-Matsumoto was present with them during those 10 days as they prepared for the Paralympic Games in Tokyo. Join us as we explore the day-to-day lives of these top athletes as they prepared for the start of the games! 

Day 1: Arrival of the athletes and Welcome Ceremony

Final preparations for the reception ceremony were completed before the expected arrival of the athletes later that day. A total of 13 French athletes and 8 staff members were welcomed by the city’s mayor and local sports and tourism organizations.

The athletes arrived later then expected, due to recent heavy rains hitting Japan, causing flooding and mudslides in the region. This resulted in the closure of the highway and the athlete’s bus had to take another route to get to Matsumoto.

But the French Paralympic Cycling Team did finally arrive in Matsumoto and by the end of the day they had taken up residence in their rooms at the Buena Vista Hotel near Matsumoto Station.

Buena Vista Hotel

A welcome ceremony was subsequently held in honor of the French team during which the mayor of the city, Akira Sugaya and Team France’s manager Laurent Thirionet, gave speeches.

M. Mayor: “We are proud to host the French Paralympic Cycling Team in Matsumoto. Our city is ideal for the preparations for the next games and we hope you enjoy the strength of the San(3) Gaku (1) from the city. If there is a competition between France and Japan during the games, I will probably support France!”

Laurent Thirionet: “We are really very surprised by this welcome. We weren’t expecting it. The whole team is also surprised, impressed and delighted with this welcome! Thank you very much for this warm welcome.”    

The Mayor then handed to Laurent Thirionet a ball of Temari (2), the symbol of the city, by way of gift and home with respect for local tradition. Welcome-Matsumoto was then responsible for explaining to the French team the history and origin of the Temari.

French Paralympic Cycling Team Thirionet
French Paralympic Cycling Team photo
 Official photo of the arrival of the athletes in Matsumoto

Day 2: Equipment preparations and first training on the road

The first morning in Matsumoto was devoted to preparing equipment for training. The French team unpacked all bikes and other equipment in preparation for the first workouts in the afternoon. Francisco Trujillo, Damien BregereMathieu Jeanne and the rest of the team members got underway.

For this first day, we rode the bus with Florian JouannyRiadh Tarsim, Loïc Vergnaud, Patrick Moyses and Willy Robin on their way to Shiga-Mura for workouts on the road.

On the way we passed in front of Matsumoto Castle. This was the first occasion for most of the athletes to see the historic castle. The athletes did not come to Matsumoto for sightseeing, but the opportunity to take some photos of the castle was too good to pass up. It was also the perfect moment for Welcome-Matsumoto to introduce the origins and history of this National Treasure.

When we arrived in Shiga-mura, many locals were there to welcome us. Others were also present along the road during training.

The French Paralympic Cycling Team loved this welcome! According to Kevin Bougarel, massage therapist for Team France, “It is one of the best welcomes we have ever received. Especially for training sessions. Even the hospitality during the World Championship in Portugal was not as warm. Or even the welcome we typically receive during competitions in France.”            

Day 3: Indoor training 

The third day of Team France in Matsumoto took place in the rain. Consequently, Some athletes preferred to train indoors. Professional cyclists train indoors using online training software. Electric fans are also installed to cool the body temperature and simulate an outside breeze.

Alexandre Lloveras, who is a tandem race participant, originally did athletics before reorienting himself towards cycling in 2018. He is participating in his first Paralympic games with his pilot Corentin Ermenault: “Today, I have to do 2 hours of training, more than my pilot Corentin.”       

French Paralympic Cycling Team Lloveras

Day 4: The delicacies of Japan 

The training continued on the road. At the end of these training sessions, the athletes got to eat thanks to the most famous Japanese bento box.

French Paralympic Cycling Team lunch

Corentin Ermenault, 4 times European champion and bronze medalist at the world championships, said about the breakfast following training: “It is really good! There is a lot of stuff and it is quite varied.”      

French Paralympic Cycling Team obento

Many onigiri were also made available for the French team. Kevin Le Cunff, who will focus this year on one of the most important titles of his career: “I tasted an onigiri for the first time yesterday and loved it! That’s why I wanted to eat one again today!”      

French Paralympic Cycling Team Le Cunff

It made the other members of the team for whom it was the first-time envy! Riadh Tarsim, who recently became world champion in his category: “I think it would work well in France! It’s simple, fast, good and cheap! And for athletes like us, lots of good things!”    

Day 5: Track training 

Training was not limited to roads but also on the track. The track cycling competition begins before the road one. The departure of the trackers: Alexandre LeauteDorian Foulon and Marie Patouillet, among others, was scheduled for the following day.

Matsumoto City has an excellent sports complex for track cycling with the Misuzuko track, located near Asama Onsen.

French Paralympic Cycling Team track

We had the chance to chat with François Pervis, seven times world champion, consultant for France Télévisions and pilot for Raphael Beaugillet, and ask him why he wears a costume from Dragon Ball.

French Paralympic Cycling Team tandem

François Pervis: “As many know, I love Japan. I’ve studied Japanese for about a year and a half now. But it’s a difficult language to learn and my schedule does not allow me to devote myself fully to it. Only an hour and a half per week. I love this country and its people so much that I have chosen a Japanese name for my daughter.”       

French Paralympic Cycling Team pervis

François Pervis is also a celebrity in Japan. Among other things, he holds the speed record on Keirin, a very popular race in Japan!   

Day 6: Departure Day for the trackers 

Today the track cyclists left for the Olympic Cycling Village in Izu. Many people came out to wish them the best in the Paralympic Games.

This was an opportunity to learn a little more general information about the French Paralympic Cycling Team from Kevin Bougarel: “The federation finances travel and some equipment. But it is far from sufficient. Most things are funded by our partners, for example most of the athlete’s bicycles.”       

In the afternoon, road training resumed and the heat was present for the first time since the heavy rains. This was the perfect opportunity for our cyclists to acclimatize to the warmth before the start of the competition. 

Indeed, the temperatures on the circuit of Fuji Speedway during competition will be a little higher than in Matsumoto. Although the two cities are at almost the same altitude (592 m for Matsumoto and around 560 m for Fuji Speedway), temperatures in the south of the country are generally higher.

Meanwhile, the track cyclists arrived at the Olympic Village.

French Paralympic Cycling Team izu olympic village
Official photo of the arrival of the trackers at the Olympic Village 

Day 7: How the team was created and why Matsumoto was chosen  

Today, more intensive training was planned for Riadh Tarsim and Florian Jouanny compared to their teammates Elise Marc and Katell Alençon. A total of 103km was completed in just under 4 hours. This was more than the length of the races planned for competition which will be approximately 70 km. But that did not tarnish the good humor and camaraderie that always seems to emerge from this group.

French Paralympic Cycling Team road

Willy Robin explains: “We’re all good friends. Our team has been newly introduced by Laurent Thirionet following the poor results in previous games. The federation [back] then wanted to set up a new team with Laurent as leader. Then he gradually [brought in] Patrick and other members. I joined the team because I was already working with Patrick. We know each other well and have worked together in other competitions. Our team is under contract with the federation until the next Paralympics Games of Paris in 2024“.

Corentin Ermenault

As for the question why Matsumoto was chosen as a pre-training location: “Among the choices we had, Matsumoto was the only city to offer an outdoor velodrome that could accommodate our team of trackers. Our choice was therefore naturally oriented towards this city, in addition to the fact that the road circuit offered in Shiga-mura also corresponded perfectly to our expectations”.      

Day 8: After the effort, the comfort 

Florian Jouanny got the day off. After the intensive training the day before, the team got a quieter schedule today. It was even possible for local children to pedal a few kilometers with the athletes of the French team.

French Paralympic Cycling Team Shiga

Riadh Tarsim asked us what are the most famous desserts and cakes in Japan. So straight away we acquired a few of these cakes for the team to try. Everyone loved their very first 100% Japanese dessert! 

It was also an opportunity to take time to admire the magnificent landscape offered by the surroundings of Matsumoto. A true paradise for our cyclists!

Day 9: The warm welcome from the children of the region 

A big surprise awaited our athletes when they arrived at Shiga-mura. All the children of the village school gathered to welcome the French Paralympic Cycling Team with a big banner saying “We are all with you. Go Les Bleus!”

Tokyo Paralympic Games

The athletes were really happy but Elise Marc pointed out: “Being in Japan should be a celebration, but things are sadly different with the coronavirus. We can’t go near and take pictures with them. I’m sure they would have loved it. But I think it will still leave them with very good memories. In any case, we will keep fond memories of it!”.

In addition, several local and national journalists were present at today’s meeting. After training, a journalist from the local newspaper Shinmin Times interviewed some members of the French Team. The questions were as much about athlete’s discoveries of Japan and its culture as they were about their training.   

Shinmin Times
Article published in the August 26th, 2021 edition of Sinmin Times

Day 10 : The last day in Matsumoto 

The last day of training before the start meant relaxation. It was above all the last opportunity to spend some time together before the start of the competition. But also the opportunity for athletes to discover a little more about Japanese culture, including a little Origami workout! 

Day 11 : Departure for the Paralympic Games 

The day of the big departure! All our athletes now have to reach for their destinies. 

French Paralympic Cycling Team tokyo
Official photo of the arrival of the road team at the Olympic Village 

Discover the stay of the French Paralympic Cycling Team in Video

Notes

Gaku (1) In Japanese, the word Gaku can have three meanings:

– Study (learn): several renowned universities across Japan are located in Matsumoto, including the famous Shinshu University

– Mountain (summit): the region is surrounded by mountains chain nicknamed ” the Japanese Alps ” and contains 29 of the 100 famous mountains of Japan ( Hyakumeizan ) as well as the famous Kamikochi National Park.   

– Music: the city is famous for its excellent music learning program, its many musical instrument shops and for the two classical music legends: Seiji Ozawa and Shin’ichi Suzuki.

Temari (2) This is Matsumoto’s most famous handcraft. It is of a ball handmade with woven silk and son entangled. Balls are made by wrapping colorful silk threads to create various shapes and patterns. Matsumoto was once located on a Silk Road, linking Takayama to Suwa at the time, the history of the city is thus intrinsically linked to silk. Therefore, the Temari is made from silk son, and many models, sizes and colors exist.

Other links

Learn more about:

The history and rules of the Paralympic Games

French athletes of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics

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