The career of a professional cyclist is like the roads he travels: anything but a long straight line. Turns, climbs, descents, falls and headwinds. After three seasons at Israel-Premier Tech, James Piccoli did not see his contract renewed at the end of last year.
By his own admission, 2022 has been tough for him, despite thinning out his marriage to his longtime girlfriend. The squad’s points race to remain in the fold of the World Tour teams was at the heart of the team’s decisions, as Piccoli recalls.
“The history of UCI points was stressful for a lot of people. I think some handled it well and some didn’t,” says the man who completed the 2020 and 2021 editions of the Tour of Spain, but only competed in a limited number of World Tour level races. last year.
“I had difficulties there. [dans l’équipe], but I have no interest in speaking ill of anyone. I’m happy to change my environment and I’m going to say the same,” agrees Piccoli, without wanting to go into detail.
This departure left him bitter, but the 31-year-old athlete has now moved on: “I want to prove to myself again that the last three years were not my real qualities. [que l’on a pu voir|. Je veux prouver que j’ai encore plus à donner. »
C’est au sein de l’équipe continentale China Glory qu’il compte refaire ses preuves de différentes façons.
Direction la Chine
Après Bahreïn, les Émirats arabes unis, le Kazakhstan, Israël et le Pays basque, c’est au tour de la Chine d’entrer dans le peloton international pour montrer ses couleurs, cette fois sur le maillot de China Glory, une formation qui existe depuis deux ans. L’objectif de l’équipe est clair : faire en sorte qu’au moins un cycliste chinois soit à l’épreuve de la course sur route des Jeux olympiques de Paris, l’an prochain.
Comme c’est souvent le cas dans les sports où elle ne compte pas une expertise interne, la Chine a fait appel à du personnel étranger pour diriger cette structure. L’équipe compte à sa tête le directeur sportif français Lionel Marie, qui a côtoyé Piccoli en 2020 et 2021 chez Israel Start-Up Nation et qui lui a tendu la main.
« Je me suis toujours bien entendu avec lui. Il voulait me donner des chances d’aller chercher de bons résultats, mais aussi que je partage mes expériences de course, d’entraînement et de nutrition avec les coureurs chinois. […] The environment is super positive and I’m happy! continues the one who trains in Andorra, in the Pyrenees.
In addition to Piccoli, China Glory has in its ranks eight Chinese riders, two from France and one from South Africa. The team has already taken part in the Tour du Rwanda, in February, and Piccoli finished 15e. A result that could have been better according to him, had it not been for mechanical problems that occurred at key moments.
In 2021, the Quebecer was delighted with his first participation in the Tour of Rwanda where he finished second in the general classification.
To ride and see the country
The possibilities of discovery will be even more present for the athlete given that a portion of his racing calendar will take place mainly in Asia, including China, after an enforced three-year break due to the pandemic.
“I’ve always enjoyed shopping abroad to learn about new cultures. There, I learn Chinese in order to communicate with my teammates. It’s something I could never have done without the bike. It’s shaping up to be a super rewarding and interesting year and I’m looking forward to it. »
He should be in the Tour of Turkey in April, if the event can be presented despite the earthquake last month. Piccoli will then be on the Old Continent in May before possibly returning home in June for the Tour de Beauce with the Canadian team and then the Canadian Championships.
James Piccoli has a one-year contract with his new formation and he keeps the door open to a return to a World Tour or Pro Tour team.
“I had negotiations with a few teams last year and depending on my results this year, we will see what will happen at the end of the year. I still have a passion for cycling and the fire is burning, so we’ll see where it takes me. […] I see it as an opportunity to fall in love with racing again, to have new experiences and to give back to the sport to runners who want to learn. »