Date: Thu Aug 11 2011
Slowtwitch: Huge congrats on making the Olympic team for London 2012.
Laurent: Thanks Herbert. It was a gutsy race, very nervous & slippery on the bike and at the finish it was a mixture of relief, excitement and joy of an accomplished goal. It’s not often that you cross the line 6th almost as happy as if you won the race!
ST: You made the Beijing Team in 2008 too - is this time just as exciting?
Laurent: No way, this time is 50 times more exciting! For Beijing it just happened, I qualified as the 3rd French. I was the young gun of the team. This time I prepared that particular selection race for 2 seasons now. In 2008 and especially 2009 I have raced a lot and very consistently (6th on the overall rank of the WCS) but I had never done my best race on the biggest race of the year. So in 2010 and 2011, I changed my way of approaching the season and racing and I really tried to set up a plan in order to have a crack at it in London 2011 and even more so in 2012. So it is very enjoyable to seal the deal so early even if the more challenging part is about to come.
ST: Did you have some extra motivation with Andrea qualifying for the Kiwi team a day earlier?
Laurent: It is crazy but I was nervous watching her race. When I am doing mine I am not stressed at all, but being on the side of the road, without any control, is pretty stressful. I knew she was in good shape and I really trusted her ability to answer the London call and she did, so I was delighted! Andrea showed the way with a classy performance and without saying any word about my upcoming race to me I knew what I had to do the next day.
ST: Had you not qualified would Andrea have given you grief?
Laurent: I am sure she wouldn’t have said anything at first because it is only sport and second because we are both really good separating sport emotions from couple things. We have been together for 4 years and we share a lot, we made our plan in common and assume our choices. I believe to achieve great things you have to take some risks and then the game has to play a bit in your hand and this is what happened in London for both of us.
ST: How confident were you going into the race?
Laurent: To secure the Olympic selection for France, I had to do a top 8 and I was ready to fight against great adversity as the Olympic distance World’s best wanted to qualify there. It was really a 10-month plan, taking a direction and sticking at it, believing it will work well. It was a question about timing and deciding the way you want to achieve your goal. I didn’t have 50 different plans for the race. I could feel everyone around me quite worried, but I was very confident.
ST: Your season until now has been quite steady, but I guess that really did not matter.
Laurent: My base training had been great in NZL and I only did Madrid (12th with 4th fastest run), Kitzbuhel 6th and European 7th as International ITU races prior to the Olympic Test event. It is consistent racing without any crack but I really felt I was getting better week after week. I have learned from the past and my mistakes. I just didn’t say anything but I was putting little piece after piece into London.
ST: Were you surprised by Brownlee’s attack during the bike?
Laurent: I actually didn’t realize he attacked until half way through the bike. I thought it was Stuey Hayes. It’s only my fault, it started to rain hard and the course got very slippery. For a while I was quite deep in the peloton so I couldn’t really react right on time. Alistair is an aggressive racer so I am not surprised he would want to get away. Both Brownlees are great athletes but they are not the only ones. They have brought triathlon to a new level but I can feel that some other athletes are reaching them step by step.
ST: Had your team plans to attack the Brownlees, or in general being aggressive?
Laurent: For this race we didn’t have any team plan. It was a bit weird but the goal was not especially to try everything to win it but to get a top 8 finishes. It will be completely different next year. After Beijing, I realized that the Olympic Race is about winning it. I haven’t spoken with David yet but surely we will put ourselves in the best position to bring back home something big for France. And for the first time in my triathlon career I raced the major goal of the year just focusing on achieving a top 8 because there is not point on being the best in August 2012 if you miss the qualification!
ST: With David Hauss the French team has another very strong athlete going to the Olympics. Has he surprised you?
ST: Who is most likely to get that third spot?
Laurent: Well, it’s still very open with 4 guys fighting for it. They all are good athletes and have different strengths. At the moment, Vincent Luis has shown some great form and by his young age he should keep improving a lot in the next few months. Fred Belaubre and Tony Moulai are experienced and they know what it takes to grab an Olympic spot. Finally Aurelien Raphael was junior world champion in 2007, so he has the talent and now it’s just a question of time until work pays off.
Laurent: I was actually very impressed by Vincent Luis, he is on his debut in the WCS (only his 3rd one) and he took 10th on the fastest! As for David, I have known him since we were 15-years old. Since then we have been very close to each other, he is a very good friend. David was always good, it just took him a bit of time to get the consistency but now he has it. Both of us spend our base training outside of France and I think this is making a difference. He spends time on Réunion Island and I as an adopted Kiwi in New Zealand. Now I am used to say that I am 49% Kiwi, 51% French.
Laurent: I am now back in my hometown, Sète (South of France) and you will see me competing in Lausanne for the round 6 of the WCS, then Beijing Grande Finale, Yokohama WCS, the National Champs and finally I will race Auckland World Cup before basing myself in Christchurch to prepare the Olympic season.
ST: How are things going in terms of sponsorship?
Laurent: My partners are involved in my project, without their support it would be impossible to perform at the top level. We are working on long/middle term mutual goals. Although, one or two extra collaborations would be perfect, I decided to limit my number of sponsors to have time to best suit each of them.
Lagardère is a French multinational conglomerate headquartered in Paris. The group is divided into four business lines: media, services, publishing and sport/talent management.
I also belong to the Adidas Olympic Team in France. This team includes several athletes from every Olympic sport. Since 2010, I am «all in» representing the brand with the 3 stripes.
Finally, since 2004, I am contracted to the French army as an athlete and representing values like perseverance, commitment, respect and performance.
ST: Anything else we should know?
Laurent: Yes, during my spare time I enjoy composing electronic music. I have been doing it for 5 years but no dance floor for me - triathletes are a bit sleepy past 11:00pm!
The website of Laurent Vidal is laurent-vidal.com
Images 2 and 3 are courtesy of Mike Heydon of jetproductions.co.nz