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09-04-2024 | Jean-Marie Henckaerts

Former pro and gran fondo hotshot Bourgeois: 'laps around a village is not for me'

Guillaume Bourgeois is a former pro cyclist who is currently one of the top gran fondo riders in the field. CycloWorld spoke to this world-class cyclist, who appears to be a fan of our calendar.

Guillaume won Les 3 Ballons in 2013 and the three-day La Campilaro in the Pyrenees in 2023. He also achieved outstanding results during the Haute Route. Between 2015 and 2020, he rode the Haute Route Alpes, in which he won two stages and finished second. He won the Haute Routes of Crans Montana, Oman and Mexico, respectively. He participated in one UCI World Gran fondo Championship in 2022 in Trento. With bad legs, he finished seventh.

Guillaume, how did you get into cycling?

'Since I was 9 or 10 years old, I have been into cycling. I remember watching the Tour de France on TV back then. I joined the club Cyclophile Morgien in Morges, near Lausanne, Switzerland. I climbed through the ranks as a cadet, junior and then as an amateur elite. I had the opportunity to join the Velo Club Mendrisio in Ticino. That was with Steve Morabito, who later rode for Phonak, Astana, BMC and Française des Jeux. There I ended up with the Espoir U23. I was then a professional cyclist for five years, first three years with the Suisse Atlas continental team, a year with a team in Hong Kong (Champion System) and a year with the Vorarlberg Austrian team. Since I was not a winner, I had to serve my teams as a domestique. We got some stage victories in the Tour of Greece, the Tour of Austria and won the Swiss championship with the Atlas team. However, after five years, at age 28, I wanted to settle down and look for a professional activity in cycling, and at the same time I continued my passion by riding gran fondos.'

How is life after professional cycling?

'Being passionate about cycling, I founded my own bike fitting and coaching practice Vélo Perfection. This worked out nicely for me thanks to a contact with the Trek brand. Trek was developing bike fitting. I started working for Trek to go to stores offering bike fitting in French-speaking Europe. Trek offered me a three-month training course in the UK. I also earned a master's degree in social sciences and sports from the University of Lausanne. My passion, my master's degree and training at Trek led to the creation of Vélo Perfection.'

How did you begin your cycling career?

'After my professional career, I never stopped cycling. I switched to gran fondos. It's stimulating to set goals for your sport. I have a climber's profile, so I like long and mountainous gran fondos. I also like exploring beautiful nature. So I wasn't interested in riding criteriums where you ride around a village, that's not my cup of tea. I set my sights on three gran fondos I wanted to win: the Alpenbrevet Platin (which I won in 2015), the Tour des Stations (which I finished third and second before winning the Everest version in 2020) and the Tour du Mont Blanc which I won in 2022. With those results, I achieved my post-pro career goals.'

But you didn't stop there.

'The longer the effort and the more meters of elevation, the better I perform. Ultra's therefore fit well with my physical and mental capabilities. For that reason, I therefore perform well in ultafondos, such as the long version of La Marmotte (225 km / 6300 m+), Extreme Vosges Challenge 2023 (371 km / 8461 m+) both of which I won in 2023. I also rode Ultra Cycling de la Vanoise (320 km / 8664 m+). That last one, by the way, I found through your platform because in that year the Tour du Mont Blanc was cancelled and I was looking for an alternative.'

Where are your current interests?

'I am now in a phase to explore other aspects of cycling. I mainly look for adventure in bikepacking races, such as self-supported races like the Atlas Mountain Race or the GranGuanche. That's a race in which you cross the Canary Islands of Lanzarote, Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria, Tenerife and La Gomera. In January 2023 I rode the road version and finished second overall; in December 2023 I rode the MTB version with my friend Steve Morabito. We had some mechanical problems, so it was a real adventure, but we made it! These races are less competitive, which suits me well because I don't feel like I have anything left to prove.'

'But above all, I now want to help other amateurs reach a higher level. So in addition to bike fitting, I also offer personal training, training plans and coaching.'

Guillaume will probably still run into you at one gran fondo or another, and if you do, beware, because he still has his pro instinct for wins.

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