“I found the race that makes me pedal every day”. These were the first words that came out of Clément Davy’s mouth, last October, when completing his first Paris-Roubaix in tough conditions. After falling in love with the “Queen of the Classics”, the 23-year-old young man will be there one again on Sunday, with more enthusiasm and motivation than ever.

Clément, Paris-Roubaix is ​​tomorrow! For how long have you had it in mind?

To be honest, every time I cross the line in Roubaix, I already think about the next edition. When I get to the velodrome, I already can’t wait for the next one. Specifically, I’ve been really thinking about Sunday’s race for a month, aiming to ​​be in a good shape and to be ready for battle. I think about the race, about the details that can make the difference, in terms of nutrition, sleep. Last week, I had to do a rollers session because the weather was not nice at home. To immerse myself again in the race, I played the past edition to find out what I might have missed, what is really going on and to know the sectors a little better, as I do not yet know those of the professional edition by heart. I hope to do Paris-Roubaix many more times, and personally, it will be a goal every season if I have the opportunity to participate and if it fits into my program. I really want it to be a prerequisite every year for me.

“You have to earn your spot for such a race”

Did you have more guarantees to be here this year?

I did a little, but for me, until it’s really confirmed, I want to do everything I can to make sure I’m there. We are twenty-eight riders in the team. Of course, not every one of them wants to do Paris-Roubaix, but you have to earn your spot for such a race! If you fail to be in shape, the boat can leave without you. Therefore, I remained focused. Just because you have a slightly more guaranteed spot doesn’t mean you have to stop working seriously.

Have you thought a lot about your first participation last October?

In the week following Roubaix, we obviously rewrite the scenario several times. I especially noticed that all those who got into the final top-10 were in the first fifteen positions entering every single sector. You really need to be in front in those moments, and that’s what I would like to be able to do this year. That’s the main thing I learned from last year. It’s always easier said than done, as you also need to be physically able to do it, but it’s something I want to keep in mind. At the time, I realized that I had to come back on the road every time. When I watched everything on TV later, I noticed that there were always splits in the sectors. In front, those were always the same guys, while we had to make an effort to come back.

On the other hand, you realized that this was a race made for you…

Indeed, this race can totally suit me because you need to have a good weight/power ratio on the flat. I don’t know how far I can go in terms of results and abilities. I’m still improving, but I’m going there with a lot of motivation. I want to do well, but above all, I always want to do better. My nature is such that I always want more, and I am never satisfied with what I have already achieved.

“You have to go against what the brain tells you”

What areas for improvement have you identified?

Last year, I noticed that the 200-kilometre stage was acquired thanks to a WorldTour season in the legs. On the other hand, once past this 200-kilometre stage, I could struggle a bit more. I think I was distanced about forty kilometres from the finish, and I hope to go much further this year. Having done kilometres and kilometres in the WorldTour peloton will help me for sure. I hope to better deal with the distance, but positioning can also help me, as I would do less effort. Also, I did not even lose contact because of my legs. At one point, the cobblestones actually really hurt my arms, and my arms could no longer support the strength I need to put in to hold my handlebars. I had to take it easy for this reason. I looked for a solution, and I eventually believe that the body must deal with this pain and absorb the shock. You have to go against what the brain tells you. It’s difficult, but that’s what you need to get a result.

Can you point out what makes you love this race so much?

It’s hard to say. As soon as I moved into the U23 category, I really wanted to participate in this race. I rode it for the first time in my second year U23, and as soon as I got to the North’s cobblestones, I really enjoyed this effort on this tough road that beats you up. When you are there, you really feel this “Hell of the North” that makes the history of cycling. Then, every time I watched Paris-Roubaix on TV, it made me want to do it as well; just to see the guys covered in dust, mud, and going into the fight. We know that there are dangerous, very important spots on Paris-Roubaix, even more than on all the other Classics. We can also see in every edition how spectacular the entry into the Trouée d’Arenberg is. We arrive at a crazy speed, and we suddenly go from the asphalt to a bumpy road where we just try to find the right place to put our wheel. Nothing is sure. At any moment, everything could go one way or another.

What could be your goal for this year’s edition?

I do not know. I join the “Classics” group that is performing very well, and we especially want to keep this momentum going. Personally, I did not have the best possible preparation. I got sick last week, and I had to deal with a small virus. With the team, we made the right decision not to take the start of the Circuit de la Sarthe, it could have worsened my bronchial tubes’ state. Thanks to the rest I took, I was able to quickly get back in the saddle. Before that, the condition was really increasing, I felt good, race after race. I just had this small setback last week, but it can also be a blessing in disguise. Perhaps the body needed to recover, and I feel that Paris-Camembert still did me good. I’m on schedule for Sunday. I’m waiting for the recons to assess my feelings on the cobbles. As a team, we have anyway very good cards, whether with Stefan or Valentin. We will see what is said at the briefing, but we also know that in Paris-Roubaix, whatever the briefing, nothing ever goes exactly as planned. In any case, I want to have a good race. Even if I am here to help the team first and foremost, I also know that Paris-Roubaix doesn’t end there. You must get to the velodrome. What I also learned last year is that anything can happen as long as you haven’t crossed the line.

“It would be stupid not to believe in a very big result”

What have you made of your teammates’ spring campaign?

It was great! I made sure to be in front of my tv every time. We saw that the team was very homogeneous, was heading in the same direction, and it paid off. There hasn’t been victory, yes, but they achieved very good results on high-level Classics. That surely boosts the whole group and does us good lately. I definitely want to contribute to this momentum on Sunday. They did all the Classics together and will find their bearings right away. We join them together with Bram, and it will for sure be an advantage to arrive in this kind of atmosphere.

How do you explain this momentum?

There isn’t just one explanation, in my opinion. Leaders and domestiques have improved. This is also the case inside the team. Whether in terms of equipment and nutrition, we are always looking for innovations. The combination of all these factors obviously led us to where we are today. I don’t think we are much more ambitious than in past years. We just have more opportunities given the level we are at this year. Even though I only have a very short experience in the Classics, I have the feeling that the ambition is the same as it was last year, for example. The winter approach also changed a bit. Some went on an altitude training camp, and it obviously paid off.

So, what’s the objective on Sunday?

We will see what the sports director tells us, but given what we have been able to do in the Flemish Classics, we are entitled to hope for a great performance. I think it would be stupid not to think about and believe in a very big result. The top-10 is almost the minimum we can ask for. Honestly, I don’t think it’s pretentious to think that way when we look at our team. The team is improving a lot from year to year, in many areas. We never stop at what is already acquired. This is the strength of our team, and it is also thanks to this spirit that we got here.

“I gained a rank within the profession”

Do you feel like you have grown up a lot yourself since you joined the WorldTeam last year?

Very much. I can feel it just by being at the start of professional races that I had the chance to do last year. When we do Nokere, Denain, Paris-Roubaix, we sometimes find ourselves in the same hotels. I no longer discover this side of things. In these moments, I tell myself that the experience is really taking hold. I am also able to better understand the tactics, and physically, I obviously gain strength riding kilometres in the WorldTour. I notice it. I can’t wait to continue this way and get other kilometres in the legs in order to continue to improve. I feel that the years are important when you get to the pros. You can really see the difference between a rider who has already done a Grand Tour, another who has three years with the pros and another who has only one. On Milan-Sanremo, for example, I was not in the unknown like last year. It’s a real benefit. I knew exactly where not to get caught up, where not to waste energy, and where to position the team. The briefings of the sports directors may be very precise, with photos, etc, nothing beats a recon or a first participation. Coming back several times helps knowing the race by heart. When you are in your first year, it is still a small disadvantage.

Since when do you really feel being a pro rider?

As French riders, we are in this grey area. As soon as you reach the Continental division, you are considered a professional because you are an employee. However, other foreign Continental teams are not in this case. As I had a professional status, I was in fact a professional rider within the “Conti”, but let’s say I gained a rank within the profession. When I look at the calendar they suggest me in the start of the season, I have the choice between all the races of the highest level in cycling. I already considered myself a pro cyclist before, but when you tell people that you are in the Groupama-FDJ development team and that you are not competing in the Tour, they do not necessarily understand. We can’t deny there is a difference. I already felt professional in my approach before, but let’s say I’ve been 100% professional since I entered the WorldTour.

What is your view on the Conti’s evolution?

Like us riders, the team has improved for sure. It was created on extremely solid foundations, being the development team of such an organization, but it has progressed enormously over the years. Sometimes, you can be a bit jealous of them (smiles), as they go from a victory to another, but cycling has also changed a lot. Young riders are performing earlier and earlier. Personally, I joined the WorldTeam at 22, which may seem late even if it’s still young. Not everyone has the same background, but as far as I’m concerned, I would have been unable to do what they do at their age. It’s quite stunning.

Are you still in touch with the team somehow?

Thanks to the new “exchanges” regulation, we often come across Conti riders, and I know some of them. We see them coming, evolving, and that helps to boost everyone. They are all going very well, but we also want to keep the place we fought hard to get, so that pushes everyone to give their best. I evidently keep an eye on them to support them. When they’re going strong, there is no problem. On the other hand, if something goes wrong, I am also there to tell them that they should not worry, that it is not serious, and that it is normal. Just because they don’t have the level one day doesn’t mean they won’t have it the next day. It’s also my role to help them put things into perspective when things don’t work.

To read in this category…

No comment