Clara Copponi or assumed ambition

Clara Copponi or assumed ambition

Clara Copponi (left) and Valentine Fortin, during the women's Madison 30 km final, at the track cycling world championships, at the Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines velodrome, October 15, 2022.

When you ask Clara Copponi what she likes about sport, the answer is immediate: “Win it! » “I’ve always been a snapper, wanting to win all the time, for everything. Even at the school cross, that was it…”, explains, in a burst of laughter, the 24-year-old cyclist. For her recovery on the road, in January, the native of Aix-en-Provence came close to victory on the inaugural stage of the Santos Tour Down Under (Australia); she finally had to settle for second place, behind the Polish Daria Pikulik. The result confirms her good momentum from last season, where the FDJ-Suez sprinter won her first professional successes – stage victory on Women’s Tour and La Choralis Fourmies -, but not enough to fully satisfy the interested party. .

Just returned from the antipodes, Clara Copponi intends to remedy this. From February 8 to 12, she swapped her training jersey to wear that of the French team for the European track championships, held in Granges, Switzerland. And the objective is clear: to win a title. In August 2022, at the “Europe” in Munich (Germany), she had won three medals in as many races contested: bronze in the team pursuit, silver in the American and the omnium. A few months later, during the Worlds, in the Vélodrome of Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines – the scene of the 2024 Olympic Games (OG) events – Clara Copponi was again invited to the podium (second in the American and third in the team pursuit). “Well, it would be nice, one day, to climb the highest step”she jokes.

Read also: Track cycling world championships that look like a dress rehearsal for Paris 2024

The cyclist has come a long way since her disappointment at the Tokyo Olympics in the summer of 2021, where she finished 5e of the American and 8e omnium. “It was very complicated for a very long timeshe recalls. For about six months I couldn’t talk about it without cryingr. It’s hard to come back from a competition like that, where you expected great things. Physically, I had never been stronger than when I left the Games, when I told myself that I was super bad. It’s such a grand event that everyone comes to their peak, and I think I had a hard time understanding it. Now, I put it into perspective: fifth at the Olympic Games, at 22, it’s still not bad. And then I also use it, telling myself that now I know what pressure is. »

“To be an Olympic champion on the track in 2024”

The year 2023 of the young woman will be dense. On the asphalt, his formation, the FDJ-Suez, holds the leading roles in the World Tour – the elite division of road cycling –, 4e in the world ranking in 2022 and first in the current financial year. At the same time, the qualifications for the Paris Games are played on the track, of which Granges marks the first stage. ” I’m lucky. [Les responsables de la FDJ-Suez] are hyperconciliatory with the France teamshe explains. At the start of the season, we will try to establish a program for me that will still allow me to rest, because we have big trips. » Back from Australia at the end of January, Clara Copponi must return to Jakarta after the European Championships in Switzerland.

Read also: An extensive women’s road calendar, complicated team management

He will also have to make choices. “I should participate in three or four classics in 2023, big goals, including, perhaps, Paris-Roubaix. I’ve been waiting for this for two years. Previously, it was complicated with the track, and I didn’t want to take any risks. » Clara Copponi knows that she will not be aligned with the Tour de France, from July 23 to 30. In 2022, she had already not taken part in the adventure for the return of a women’s edition of the race after thirty years of absence. “I was very disappointed, but I bounced back from the Giro. I still hope to be on a Grand Tour in 2023, rather La Vuelta. The Tour de France, I will have time to do it. »

The sprinter is pragmatic. “I know that there is still little chance that I will win on a stage [de la Grande Boucle]. Even if helping my teammates, it’s also a role that I love – like in Australia where I really enjoyed myself. You have to know what you want, and what I want is to be Olympic track champion in 2024.” Especially since, four days after the arrival of the women’s Tour peloton, in Pau, the Glasgow Worlds (August 3 to 13) start, which brings together for the first time all the different cycling disciplines in a single competition. . “This Tour-world championship sequence is not an optimal preparationargues Clara Copponi. The best this summer is clearly to do a general rehearsal of the Olympics during the Worlds, because they take place almost exactly on the same dates. [du 5 au 11 août, à Paris, en 2024]. »

At the European Championships, Clara Copponi will find her teammate from the FDJ-Suez, Vittoria Guazzini, vice-champion of Europe and world champion in pursuit with the Italian team. During the presentation of the objectives of the training, at the beginning of February at the headquarters of the Française des Jeux, in the Hauts-de-Seine, the two young women teased each other on the subject. “There is inevitably rivalry when you are in the velodrome. But at the start of the race, we always have a little look, a smile, slips the French. In addition, we are often in the final against the Italians and we often lose the Italians…” And the “snarling” to take a date: “In Paris, we will see who will have the last word. »

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