Home » Tour de Romandie – Simon Pellaud: “Gino should have been here, right now”

Tour de Romandie – Simon Pellaud: “Gino should have been here, right now”

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Tour de Romandie – Simon Pellaud: “Gino should have been here, right now”

Last week, Simon Pellaud (Tudor Pro Cycling) arrived at the Tour des Alpes from Colombia, where he settled a few years ago. “I’m going to be a little tired,” he whispered with seven hours of time difference to deal with… And he took off in a breakaway during the first two stages. In Medellin, the two-wheeled globetrotter, originally from Chemin-Dessus in Valais, has become the “suizo paisa”: “suizo”, like his Swiss origins, and “paisa”, like the inhabitants of the region of Antioquia, who adopted it as naturally as they embraced their cycling passion.

At 31, Pellaud is a unique character in the peloton, anachronistic, “a little romantic”, as he himself says. He traveled, ran in forty countries, raised his arms on four continents (Africa, America, Asia and Europe)… We saw him become friends with Thomas De Gendt, through shared escapes on the Giro. He was also close to Gino Mäder, who should have joined him in the ranks of the Tudor team before losing his life following a fall during the race last year on the roads of the Tour de Suisse.

Remembering Gino Mäder at the presentation of Team Bahrain at the start of the Tour de France 2023 in Bilbao

It’s often said that runners don’t have time to enjoy the scenery… What’s the difference in running in Cameroon, Malaysia or Venezuela?

Simon Pellaud: When you’re really in racing mode, it’s a little different. But I have the impression that these last months, these last seasons, it is perhaps what is besides the race which makes me a cyclist, more than the race itself. It’s nice to be a teammate, to be able to help a rider win, but I’m going to use a phrase from a rider I admire, Primoz Roglic: tell me a rider who started cycling dreaming of being gregario… It doesn’t exist. When a child rides a bike, it’s not to bring containers back to a classmate or even to enjoy nature. Any professional peloton cyclist will tell you that they started cycling because they wanted to win races. This is something that has got me thinking lately. In the end, you also have to know how to find your balance. I live in Colombia, I speak five languages, I have met a lot of people including friends who are very close to me thanks to cycling, and it’s not just because I have won races.

And if there is a country that particularly struck you in all of this…

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SP: I think it’s easy to find!

SP: If I got stuck there initially, it was for cycling. The Colombian people have a respect and adoration that I believe does not exist in any other country in the world.

Is this felt on a daily basis?

SP: Even before worship, we must begin with respect. Colombians work six days a week, they don’t really have vacations. So I think the cyclist is respected for his toughness of character. At home, we say to you: “You cycle? Oh ok. And have you raced the Tour de France? No? But then what do you do in life apart from cycling?” People don’t necessarily realize how demanding cycling is.

If the bike is so beautiful, it’s because it is so cruel

We are regularly impressed by the images of Colombians on old bikes, in sandals, who start following the pros who are training. Does this happen to you too?

SP: Every day! There, we leave for riding early, around 6-7 a.m., and we return for school release around 1-2 p.m., and when I pass through my village I hear shouts: “Nairo!”, “Rigo!” These are the two runners (Nairo Quintana and Rigoberto Uran, editor’s note) the most influential in Colombia. For young people, seeing a cyclist is also an escape, an open door to Europe. And that’s why it really makes young people dream. In Europe, cycling for five years in a WorldTour team with a salary of 30 to 50,000 euros is not necessarily a dream. In Colombia, with a salary like that, you can support your parents, your grandparents and your children. That’s four generations who live thanks to cycling if you do it well. It’s a kind of sporting Eldorado.

Simon Pellaud, creates a fantasy in the breakaway during the 20th stage of the Giro

You invited other pros, like Annemiek van Vleuten, to share your training in Colombia. What do you want to show them?

SP: This winter again, I brought in a Swiss colleague, Arnaud Tissières, for three weeks. When I was at IAM Excelsior, I managed to get the team to participate in the Tour of Colombia. There, there was all the staff, everyone. Quite a few people have already come to see me and I hope it’s not over! I also have in the back of my mind the idea of ​​organizing cycling trips to show Europeans what deep Colombia is and the incredible territory it is for cycling.

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If we summarize, is cycling beautiful?

SP: Yes, cycling is beautiful. Let’s say that it has its really positive sides. Afterwards, we know that it’s like everything, everything is not all rosy anywhere.

Is cycling cruel, too?

SP: If the bike is so beautiful, it’s because it is also so cruel. It’s so nothing. How many times have I been caught in the last kilometers after a long breakaway? Or how many times have I fallen or injured myself after weeks or months of preparation? How many times have I been so close, and so far at the same time? There are plenty of stories like that. And that’s also what makes the beauty of sport. Here, I’m talking about human beings, not the five aliens who dominate our sport… I think that’s what makes the beauty of sport, to be so often so close and at the same time so far from moments which are emotion in bar. And when you get that adrenaline, that emotion, that’s when cycling really makes sense.

We had an incredible time in China with Gino

Cycling also took away someone close to you, Gino Mäder… Who was he to you?

SP: Gino was a friend, a confidant within the peloton, without having shared my childhood with him. He’s someone I’ve always been open to, and he’s left a big mark on my career. He sold me his bike, a high-end Bianchi, when I moved to IAM Excelsior. It was the best bike for someone who isn’t in a premier league team. It’s not always easy to have cutting-edge equipment for all runners, these are huge budgets. And I had the chance to buy his bike, this bike which then made me turn professional at Androni and then at Trek. He left it to me at a price that made no sense. And I wasn’t making any money either. I would not have had the chance to buy a bike which represents a budget of more than 10,000 euros. It was a crazy move on his part. And we also shared one of the most beautiful moments of my career and I think of his career too, at the Tour of Hainan, in China. I won the last stage and he won the queen stage and finished 2nd in the general classification. We have a special relationship I think. And I will always remember that day when I learned what happened.

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“Thank you for the light, the joy and the laughter brought”: Tribute to Gino Mäder

One of the strong images at that moment was the communion of Swiss riders present on the Tour de Suisse and who were together to absorb the shock. How is it going for you on the Tour of Slovenia?

SP: Sylvain Blanquefort, the team director who was present, showed an understanding that I will not forget. He was very present for me, he was also able to find… It’s not the words, there aren’t really any words at that moment. But he knew how to calm me down, let’s say. Between runners, it was difficult. And I was, I think, one of the most affected riders, at least among those present on the Tour of Slovenia. And Sylvain had a lot of the credit for getting me up after this huge slap. I was lying at the back of the bus in a state… I don’t even want to think about it again. He’s the one who really helped me.

You then pay tribute to Gino during the race…

SP: Once again, it’s the emotions that remain. Maybe I’m a little too sensitive but that’s how I operate. It was instinctive, nothing was planned, premeditated, in my act to pay homage to him. It was something really special, emotions that I couldn’t even describe.

Do you have the feeling that Gino occupies a special place today, not only because of this drama, but also because of what he embodied?

SP: Anyway, in my heart, he has a really special place. Gino was a unique person. He certainly should have been here, on the Tour of the Alps, right now. If he came to Tudor, it was to perform in the Giro and the Tour of the Alps would have been almost obligatory. But yes, he was such a humble and great person that it certainly left more traces in the hearts of many people. But when we see cycling these days, I have the impression that it hasn’t left enough traces either. The risks that are taken, the current falls, we spend every day very, very close to a tragedy equal to that of Gino.

The tears of Bahrain-Victorious and a minute of silence: Tribute to Gino Mäder

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