Monday, December 12, 2005

French riders optimistic





By RAMI HULAYYEL

FRENCH team members are optimistic of their chances in the Gulf Energy World Junior Endurance Championship to be held in Bahrain from Thursday to December 18 in Sakhir. The team which arrived a week ago, headed by their chef de equipe Jean Louis Leclerc, consists of six riders. The team is presently training hard in the Zallaq area ahead of this prestigious event.

"We started preparations for this championship very late due to a problem with our federation which could not support us financially much earlier," said Leclerc.

But the team were fortunate to get the required support from the Sport Ministry in France. "We are very grateful to the Ministry of Sport. They gave us what we needed which was quite costly," he said.

The first selection included 22 riders but were later reduced to 15 and the final team was selected after a 60-km competition on November 13 in France and the top six were approved for the Bahrain event.

The age of the horses range from seven to 14 years while the riders are in the 16 to 21 age group.

The squad is captained by 21-year-old rider Legrand Florian who is the eldest member of the team. She will be riding nine-year-old horse Imanh.

Other team members are Belle Oceane, Pulicani Andrea, Perringerard Sara, Vasquez Nicolas and Mourou Justin.

Florian said the team members were surprised by the surroundings in Sakhir as it is completely different from what they are used to in France.

"It was a big shock for us," said Florian. "In France, we have mountains, trees and the surface is also different. I think will be difficult for us," he said.

His best achievement so far is finishing eighth in this year's European Championship in France.

Sixteen-year-old Mourou, who is the youngest member of the team, started riding at the age of seven.

She took part in many rides in France and her best record is a third-place finish at the 2005 Ribiers Race in France. Mourou is presently in the second year of a secondary school and is aiming to go to college.

Interestingly, the remaining members of the team have been riding since they were just four years old.

Vasquez, 20, is the team's most talented rider having quite a good experience. He has won several rides in France. He won one of the qualifying races in Pau City this year and also finished top at the Formigueres Race in France three years ago.

He is the only team member who is presently studying at a college called Albi in south east France.

Belle, aged 17, won the Guingamp Race in France last June. Her first appearance in an official race was in 2002 when she finished 13th in a local championship. She is in the second year of secondary school and will give her midterm exams once she returns home from here.

Perringerard is a talented 16-year-old rider who won three rides last year - Montcuq Race, St Galmier Ride and a selection race in Pau City.

She was one of the first selections and is hoping to finish among the top five in the Bahrain race. She is also studying in secondary school with one year left for her graduation.

Seventeen-year-old Pulicani snatched first position in Italy's Tongnon Race earlier this year. She won all her qualifying races which makes her a favourite to win a place on the podium in Bahrain. Pulicani is in her last year in secondary school

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