Frenchman won the race in 1997 and retired in the infield 15 years later
ROUBAIX, France (VN) — Frédéric Guesdon ended his career today, 17 years after turning professional and 15 years after winning Paris-Roubaix. The 40-year-old Frenchman collapsed in the velodrome, where he placed 88th, 18:52 behind Tom Boonen.
The result put Guesdon officially outside of the time limit, but with his 17th start in the “Hell of the North,” Guesdon, along with BMC Racing’s George Hincapie, set a new mark for longetivity.
“I wanted to put my stamp on the race,” said Guesdon, “but I missed two weeks and a stage race.”
A fractured hip nearly ended Guesdon’s (FDJ-BigMat) dream of retiring in the Roubaix velodrome. He crashed in his first official race of his final season, the Tour Down Under’s leg to Clare, on January 17.
The crash occurred in the build-up for the sprint, won by André Greipel (Lotto-Belisol), when riders overlapped wheels and took about 15 others down with them. Jürgen Roelandts (Lotto-Belisol) and Guesdon suffered the worst injuries.
“Four or five hours after the fall, when I got the diagnosis, I thought that my career was over. I only had a contract of four months, to Paris-Roubaix,” Guesdon explained. “We had to put a drain on because I had a huge bruise on my thigh and back. It took three days for the blood to drain away.”
When he arrived home in Rennes, he improved.
“It was not a bearing bone or joint, so I was on my home trainer after a month,” he said. “I was only going 15 kilometers an hour at first. However, I improved day after day and I saw I could go on, it changed everything.”
Guesdon joined the Francaise des Jeux team in its debut year after a year each with teams Le Groupement and Polti. That first year, 1997, was a turning point: a new team and his biggest win, Paris-Roubaix. He never came close to winning again, but did win France’s other big classic Paris-Tours in 2006.
“This race made me known to the general public. I almost made my entire career as a Paris-Roubaix winner. I had more emotion when I won Paris-Tours, nine years later,” Guesdon continued.
“It’s emotional, for sure, to stop the sport, my job and my passion.”
Guesdon hopes to continue with FDJ as sports director. Over the last year he has studied and had a practice run at the 2011 GP Marseillaise, where FDJ’s Jérémy Roy won. The only problem is that Marc Madiot’s team doesn’t have a free director position.
“He’d be a good director for FDJ, for sure,” Madiot said in January. “However, I won’t fire another one so that he can take that position. It depends on our budget and our program.”