A long time ago, Dave, Victor, Ivan and I raced in Brittany; when we saw this young gentleman had two wins on roads we remember from our youth we just had to have a word. Like many of our interviewees – they are helping almost 40 young riders this year – Louis Modell is a beneficiary of assistance from the fabulous Dave Rayner fund.
Where are you from in the UK, Louis – and what sort of results did you achieve at home?
“I’m from Hackney in London, and have been racing seriously from a youth level, and got a few podiums here and there at a national level, a move abroad as a senior felt like the right thing for my progression.”
Tell us about your name – it sounds very French.
“That’s just coincidence, no French connection at all, some Australian heritage but that’s not very helpful when you’re trying to understand someone speaking to you in French at 100 mph!”
You won the GP Loheac, proper Heartland and that was a nocturne; tell us about that – was it a little scary on the dark roads?
“Luckily it wasn’t really dark until the last couple of laps and by that time there were only five of us, so it would have been quite tricky to crash.
“It was also pretty flat and not very technical so luckily nothing too scary.
“Like most races here it was pretty flat-out from the gun, these Regionals tend to split early on so if you can follow the attacks in the first half hour one normally stays away.
“In the end this one came down to about five of us and I won the sprint.”
And you won GP Berne, Morbihan also, tell us about that one, please.
“GP Berne was again a regional race, local kermesse style, not particularly long but on a five kilometre circuit which, typically for Brittany, was pretty much just up and down a hill.
“And again it’s a race where you can force your way off the front and make an early break stick if you have a couple of guys who are willing to work with you.
“Which is pretty much exactly what happened.
“After the first couple of laps which are always a flurry of attacks things settle down a bit and that when the break normally goes; four of us got away on lap five of 20 which became two of us and on the last lap then, after pulling out a gap of about two minutes to the peloton just me.”
Is it Brittany or Normandy you’re based – is it still Heartland with lots of races?
“I’m based in Brittany and yeah it’s cycling mad, like no matter the race there are always a ton of spectators, they’re always really well organised.
“A lot of them are A to B with a little circuit in the finishing town which always draws a lot of spectators.”
Why base there?
“Brittany and France in general, have a really good amateur scene, it’s not very political and everything is well supported, and organised.
“Hennebont where I am has a good scene where a lot of riders go onto Division One and Two teams; that’s my aim for this season to move on – and Brittany provides that stepping stone.”
How did you get the ride with Hennebont Cyclisme, what level of support do you get from them, is there a soigneur, mechanic?
“I knew one of the riders on it from last year. And got some contact info for the manager.
“It’s not a very big team now, but it’s been around for a long time and used to be bigger so we still get entry into a lot of good races.
“Generally there isn’t a team mechanic or soigneur but when we go off to a big stage race they always make sure there is staff to help; always someone to sort the food and bottles, give massages after stages… and we always have a mechanic from a local bike shop to give support when needed.”
Tell us about your accommodation and ‘domestic’ routines.
“There are three of us at the moment; me, a Scottish rider and an Aussie, we live in a converted barn owned by the family of a rider, it’s really nice, perfect for what we need.
“We don’t really get up to much training and racing takes up most of our time and there isn’t really a lot to do in rural France.
“Cycling on the TV and Netflix and the weekly shop generally keeps us occupied.
“The team has given us an old team car which we use to go into Lorient, the nearest city if we fancy some more human contact.”
Do the races still all go down into those river valleys then up again most of the time?
“Yeah pretty much, there’s not much flat road, everything is just up or down, which takes it out of the legs after 160km especially when you ride out of a valley onto a windy ridge and are stuck in the gutter for a few kilometers.”
And are there still all those hard as nails ex-professionals riding?
“Ha, ha, yeah, we have a couple on Hennebont, and when they want to put the power down they don’t mess around, and they always seem to be in the right break, good wheels to follow.”
You were with Zappi in Italy, last year, why move?
“Zappi is very intense, and very controlled. After a year there I felt I had progressed as much as I was going to with that set up.
“Hennebont gives me a lot more independence on and off the bike, and can do what training I like and eat what and when I want, just a lot more freedom in general.”
How’s the programme looking for the next few weeks?
“There’s nothing major until the August 19th when I have quite an important two day (St Breuic Agglo Tour) followed by the amateur GP Plouay which looks to be pretty brutal, pretty much just 150km of up and down the climb the pros finish on.
“After that there’s a couple more big races in the first part of September but I should be heading home some time after the 15th.”
What will 2018 be about?
“I’m not entirely sure yet, I’m trying to sort a ride with a Division One or Two team, which would give me a bit more support generally, as well as more of a depth of calendar making it possible to get noticed by professional set-ups.”
Have you managed to find anything watchable on French TV yet?
“Unfortunately my French isn’t really good enough. Though there was the Giro and the Tour but since they’ve finished we’ve been a bit lost.
“Luckily France has Netflix which should keep us occupied until the Vuelta.”
Brittany, is it really 40 years since we raced there?
Good luck to Louis; be sure make the most of what will be one of the best time of your life, young man.