Antoine Duchesne retires |  "A creak of wrinkles..."

Antoine Duchesne retires | “A creak of wrinkles…”

(Quebec) At 17, Antoine Duchesne bought a one-way ticket to France with the ambition of becoming a professional cyclist, after discovering cycling as a teenager on the roads of Saguenay.

Updated yesterday at 19:22

Simon Drouin

Simon Drouin

Thirteen years later, after two Tours de France, the Olympic Games, multiple world championships and a national title, the “little boy from Chicout” is ready to turn the page.

“I never thought I’d be here 13 years later to tell you that I’ve achieved this dream,” explained an emotional Duchesne announcing his retirement at the end of the season.

In a small hotel room in Quebec on Thursday afternoon, the silence was complete. Only the clicks of the cameras and the cries of little Jules, four and a half months old, interrupted him.

A new father, Duchesne changed his priorities. At 30, however, he was at the top of his game. In July he concluded his second Tour with euphoria after being a valuable ally for his captain David Gaudu, fourth in the race.

His French team, Groupama-FDJ, wanted to extend his contract for a sixth year. Israel-Premier Tech had also shown interest in him.

“We see little of that on the part of the brokers, stressed the main interested party. Reject contracts when they could have continued and retire when they are still young. To me, that’s what makes the story better. We tend to see endings as sad. But when someone picks their moment, it’s more of an opportunity to stop, look back, and celebrate what’s been done. »

Joking as usual, posing with his friends Hugo Houle and Guillaume Boivin before his surprise announcement, Duchesne had to pause several times during his speech delivered with poise and without notes.

“It’s emotional right now, but I don’t really have any sadness,” he said. I feel a lot of pride. »

In the end, the call of the family was stronger than anything else.

I have always said that family is the most important thing. Today, I act accordingly.

Antoine Duchesne


Antoine Duchesne with his wife, Chloé Rochette, and their son Jules

“Do my job”

After nine seasons in the European peloton, he has no remorse or bitterness.

“I am very grateful for the experience I had the opportunity to live. Everything, ups and downs. Especially the low ones. I had enough. They are the ones who forged the man I am. »

A running back with an offensive temperament, Duchesne was able to make the most of a talent that was not evident on his debut.

” It’s a fighter summarized the cyclist Guillaume Boivin, who came to attend his friend’s press conference. “When he was younger, Antoine was not the one who won all the races. He always fought to become a professional. […] Perseverance and resilience is what characterizes him a lot. »

After a season with the American Bontrager team, Duchesne followed in the footsteps of recently retired David Veilleux at Europcar in 2014.

Two years later, he won the best climber’s polka dot jersey at Paris-Nice, earning him a first invitation to the Tour de France. Thus, he became the second Quebec native after Veilleux to compete in the world’s biggest cycling event.

In August 2016, he lined up for the Rio Olympics road race with Hugo Houle and Michael Woods.

A year later, Jean-René Bernaudeau, manager of what had become DirectEnergie, abruptly fired him simply because he had decided to be represented by an agent.

Marc Madiot recruited him from the FDJ, a blue and white team with which, therefore, he will give his last pedal strokes in competition. Approached for the first time to prepare Arnaud Démare’s sprints, he has established a special relationship with the star climber Thibaut Pinot, with whom he is now a great friend.

A model crewman, he spent the rest of his career serving the interests of his lieutenants, a job that delighted him.

“It’s what I’ve always dreamed of doing. I never looked at my results. I have never aspired or sought to win races. Strangely, I’ve always liked doing my job, doing my job like this. »

However, he won the Canadian title in 2018, at home in Saguenay. He also participated in two other grand tours, the Giro (2021) and the Vuelta (2015 and 2018).

Often delayed by ill health, Duchesne missed two chances to see the Tour again. First in 2019, the year at the end of which he underwent an operation to unblock an artery in his leg, then in 2020, when mononucleosis confined him to bed a few weeks before leaving.

After initially considering retirement, he battled back to his best in 2022.

After a second selection for the Tour that surprised some commentators in France, the Canadian from Groupama had an apotheosis with Pinot, Gaudu and the rest of the group, stirring the crowd with his jokes during pre-race introductions: “I you say Groupama, you say FDJ…”

The “Cape Houle” stage victory was another highlight that he was able to share with his friend and former roommate. The two had briefly fallen out after a disagreement in the race at the 2021 Canadian Championships in Beauce.

Souvenir of the Tour de France

“It takes courage to stop when you’re at the top of your game, but I’m sure he’s at peace with his decision,” said Houle, who also traveled.

“Antoine is a cheerful man, always ready to fool around, who doesn’t take himself seriously and who you can always have fun with. We will surely miss him in the platoon for talking nonsense. »

Duchesne’s eyes clouded over as he recounted the finish of the Tour’s final stage on the Champs-Elysées, where he got into the ultimate breakaway. In the end, he and Houle dropped from the pack to cross the line side by side.

My whole family was on the side of the road. When we turned right, with the Arc de Triomphe in the background, he was a bad guy. tall. a villain tall.

Antoine Duchesne

Even if he is recovering from a broken finger, Duchesne will try to live one last time by lining up at the Quebec and Montreal Grands Prix this Friday and Sunday.

Several projects go through his head, but first he wants to take the time to settle his decision in the coming months.

“It’s scary to throw yourself into the void a bit, but I’m not telling you that I’m going to a vineyard,” said this oenophile. Maybe one day, but not tomorrow morning. »

As the future retiree concluded after the customary thanks on Thursday: “It has been a wrinkled… »

11me Quebec Cycling Grand Prix

  • Departure at 11 a.m. for 16 laps of a 12.6 km circuit
  • Total of 201.6 kilometers
  • Total unevenness of 2976 m
  • Full broadcast on TVA Sports and free on the internet with the application VAT+

Five riders to watch at the Grand Prix Cycliste de Québec

Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma)

Archetype of the modern runner, good on all terrains, Wout van Aert is everyone’s favorite to win in Quebec on a course that he will discover. The 27-year-old Belgian is enjoying a torrid season, marked by three wins and the green jersey at the Tour de France, where he also accompanied winner Jonas Vingegaard in the high mountains. No one will want to get to the line with him, but how can you outwit an army as powerful as Jumbo-Visma’s? Seemingly invincible, he was surprised by Marco Haller at the Hamburg classic and even by David Gaudu on a stage at the Dauphiné where he had raised his arms too soon…

Michael Matthews (bike swap)


miguel matthews

Hyper-motivated by his status as sole leader heading into the World Championships on home soil in Australia, Michael Matthews didn’t stop after the Tour de France, where he scored one of the biggest solo stage wins in Mende. The 31-year-old cyclist spent three weeks at altitude before returning to racing at the end of last month. The Australian sprinter relaunched his career after his victory in Quebec in 2018. “Bling” doubled the lead during the last performance. The only downside: His Australian BikeExchange team doesn’t seem to have delegated as much of his workforce to Canadian events.

Tadej Pogacar (UAE)


Tadej Pogacar

Can Tadej Pogačar blow up the race in Old Quebec? The question is legitimate about the 23-year-old Slovenian. The second-earliest winner of the Tour de France at age 21 in 2020, the jewel of the UAE team did it again the following year. His second place this year after a single failure on the Col du Granon was seen as a failure… Without being a specialist – for the time being! – He also showed his extraordinary potential in the classics by winning Liège-Bastogne-Liège and the Tour of Lombardy last year. With his boyish looks, his communicative delight, and his sense of showmanship, you shouldn’t expect to see him wisely stay in the pack…

Biniam Girmay (Intermarche Wanty Gobert)


biniam girmay

Speaking of showmanship, Biniam Girmay is certainly not lacking! A true dynamo this spring, the 22-year-old Eritrean made history by winning the bouquet in Ghent-Wevelgem, the first African to accomplish the feat in a race of this magnitude. He then won a stage in the Tour of Italy, but had to give up the next day after getting the cork from the Prosecco bottle he was opening on the podium in his eye… The Intermarché nugget is in good shape, as shows his sixth place in the Plouay classic two weeks ago. Please uncork the champagne magnum early if Girmay asserts himself as he is capable of.

Pier-André Côté (National Team)


Pier-Andre Cote

Pier-André Côté may not be among the favourites, but he can legitimately aim for a top-20 finish on the Grande Allée. Shaken by the recurrence of cancer in his mother, who underwent brain surgery, the Lévis runner scored an emotional victory at the Canadian championships in Edmonton, where he beat Guillaume Boivin in the sprint race in June. Previously, he had his first success in Europe at the Criquielion Grand Prix in Belgium. The Quebec GP, where he got into the breakaway on his first attempt in 2017, is an ideal playing field for the finisher who likes sprints on false climbs. It will be easy to recognize him in his distinctive white and red national champion jersey…

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