A world without the quiet, enduring presence of a racing Pierre Rolland does not sound like a place I would like to live, and yet that’s a reality we might all have to come to terms with after the dramatic collapse of French team B&B Hotels.
“I’ve had some contacts, and I maybe have the possibility to continue,” Rolland told OuestFrance. “But I also have the possibility to stop. Honestly, it is still too early to say what I’m going to do. I’m still waiting.”
The two-time Tour de France stage winner has apparently had retirement on his mind for a while now, but he postponed the decision when he extended his contract towards the end of this season, adding one more year to his 16-year career. But now Rolland finds himself one of the 20 ‘Men in Glaz’ who are under contract for a team that may very well not exist in 2023, although, remarkably, there is still hope in some quarters.
“I never said it was all over,” team boss Jérôme Pineau has said, also speaking to the OuestFrance newspaper. “Yes, as it stands, we’re stopping… If there’s a miracle, I will call people back.”
However, Rolland has asserted that he would not take Pineau up on his renewed project if that ‘miracle’ happens, indicating that he will either pursue a transfer – his former team TotalEnergies is rumoured to be an option – or retire altogether.
“I’ll continue to support the project, even if personally I won’t be signing up for it,” Rolland said. “Continental level, as I see it, is about young riders. For the end of my career, it’s not what I want.”
While Pineau has been at the centre of the vortex that has delivered his team(s) to destruction, the riders connected with the project have kept a dogged radio silence. But now that it seems there’s nothing left to lose, some light is being shed on the affair from some of the pros involved, including Rolland.
“For me, it’s more nuanced. I’m very disappointed and sad, but I’m aware that Jérôme and B&B Hotels didn’t want this to happen,” Rolland said. “There was a problem at a certain moment, and Jérôme will explain in due course, but I think they were conned. It’s possible that they were sold a dream. But there we go, no one wanted this.
“Jérôme believed in me in 2019, I had a contract with him for four years, I’m not going to bite the hand that fed me. That doesn’t stop me being sad, of course, or asking questions, but Jérôme is a young manager, the economic landscape is very complicated, and this type of misfortune has happened to other managers in the past. Mistakes can happen.”
Even with all that said and the heavy baggage that now weighs on Pineau and his project, Rolland’s optimism endures. Maybe, just maybe, something could be salvaged.
“Maybe there’s anger, but I prefer to still believe that it’s not over.”
Never change, Pierre.