Former Française des Jeux assistant gets high praise from Horner
By Bryan Jew, VeloNews senior writer
For Alain Gallopin, Mercury-Viatel’s new French assistant directeur sportif, the team’s 10-day training camp in Southern California was a chance to get acquainted with many of his new riders. In particular, Gallopin got the chance to meet the American riders who weren’t too familiar to the European-based Gallopin. But with at least one American, Gallopin already had a bond that was rock solid.
“Horner, he is my friend for life,” Gallopin said of Chris Horner, who was with Gallopin for three years in the Française des Jeux program. “I am his spiritual father.”
Horner had an up-and-down time with the French team, often struggling with the cultural differences, homesickness, and some plain bad luck. But during that time he forged a strong relationship with Gallopin, and the rider speaks highly of the man he’ll be reunited with this year.
“He’s my French father,” Horner said, echoing Gallopin’s sentiment. “He’s one of the best directors I’ve ever worked with…. He knows every rider, from the small ones to the big ones. It doesn’t have to be Van Petegem or Museeuw for him to know them; he knows all the riders. He knows all the courses. He’s comfortable in Spain, he’s comfortable in Italy, he’s comfortable in Belgium, and he’s comfortable in France.
“I think the best thing he does is motivate,” Horner continued. “Everybody that rides for Gallopin wants to win for Gallopin.”
Of course, Horner conceded that even a motivational master like Gallopin couldn’t always dig him out of his European funk during the three years with Française des Jeux. “One guy can’t make up for loss of family, and friends, and language and weather. I mean, you can’t ask him to be — he’s not parting the Red Sea for you here,” Horner laughed. “I didn’t put him on the scale of Moses, I said he’s the best director I ever worked with. And he is. He is a big motivator. But you know, there’s only so much you can do.”
Horner was one of the big proponents of hiring Gallopin, and when it came down to it, the decision made sense to the Frenchman as well.
“I had many propositions during October and September, but I chose this team because for me, first, I want to speak English very, very good, and the best way is to work with an American team,” Gallopin said, still struggling a little bit with his English. “Second, I find the team very nice. The people are very nice. I see John Wordin has his personality, but I think it’s correct and good motivation, and he has his own character. I have my personality, and right now, we have no problems.”
Working with Wordin and an American team will be a new adventure for Gallopin, but so far, he seemed to be adjusting well. And with his communications skills, experience and knowledge, once he gets back to familiar ground in Europe he’ll be ready to work some magic with Mercury. Just don’t look for any miracles.