After a decade spent off Broadway, French champion Steven Tronet is finally getting the chance to act in grander auditoriums. Each morning at Paris-Nice, his Fortuneo-Vital Concept team plays its part in the day’s theatre by sending a rider up the road in the early break, and few will have approached the role with as much as relish as Tronet did on Monday’s opening road stage.
Although 29 years of age and a member of the French professional peloton since 2007, this week marks Tronet’s first ever appearance at Paris-Nice – or any WorldTour race, for that matter. Up until this year, he has raced exclusively on Continental teams – first Roubaix-Lille Métropole, then Auber 93 – and were it not for his surprise win at last June’s French Championships road race, he would likely have remained at that level in 2016.
Indeed, when Tronet penned a one-year deal with Fortuneo-Vital Concept late last summer, he was able to joke that it was the tenth successive twelve-month contract of his career. At both Roubaix and Auber 93, there was rarely any guarantee that the team would survive beyond the season, and Tronet subsisted on a combination of the minimum wage and win bonuses for most of his twenties. Most riders in Tronet’s position would surely have called time on their careers after four or five years without breaking into the big leagues.
“The salary was small, obviously, so you’d look to pad it out by riding criteriums and winning primes to gain money. That made it easier to get to the end of the month, but in any case, I reckon it’s better to ride your bike than to work in real life,” Tronet told Cyclingnews recently. “I still think cycling’s a nice life, you know? So I felt the longer I could stay a bike rider, the better.”
A native of Calais, it was to be expected, perhaps, that Tronet’s professional career would begin at VC Roubaix, where Cyrille Guimard was installed as manager, but his first major progression coincided when his arrival in the familial atmosphere of Auber 93 in 2012.
“I turned professional very young at Roubaix, when I was only 20 years old. When you’re in a small team it can be difficult to win races against big riders and big teams, because collectively you’re less strong,” Tronet said.
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