So, 2021 says goodbye to the first of what, no doubt, will be the careers of several exceptional cyclists. We at Veloflow focus, generally, on road cycling but, on this occasion, we look to the track. Baugé was a nine-time world champion, four-time Olympic medalist and 2009 winner of the Velo ‘Or, missing out, only, on the Olympic gold which would have been the crowning achievement of an already illustrious career. Certainly, worthy of a little retrospective.
Baugé announced his decision to retire, at 35 years of age, on the Stade 2 programme on France TV Sport, saying that the reason for his retirement was that he no longer felt able to compete at 100%: “I have always been at 100 per cent and I noticed I was no longer in this pattern. Overnight, I felt that I was restricted to 90 per cent. That isn't enough to seek a performance at the Olympics." The Frenchman had been hoping to finish up his career with one last push for that Olympic Gold medal in Tokyo this year, but it was not to be.
“The Black Pearl,” as he was affectionately nicknamed, began the journey of his cycling career at the age of 15 when he joined a local cycling club in Yvelines and quickly, at the behest of his father, who noticed his ability early on, made his way into track cycling. He participated in the French National Cadet Sprint Championships barely a year later in July 2001, narrowly losing in the final to Guillaume Blot. His talent was apparent, and, in November of that year, he joined the Creteil Athletic Union, permanently committing himself to track racing.
In 2002, Baugé joined the French junior sprint team and became a World Champion at age 17 in the Junior Team Sprint category. Two years later he would go on to compete at the Olympic games in Athens and, a further four years after that, he would achieve a Silver medal in the team sprint in Beijing in 2008, narrowly missing out on Gold to Team GB. 2011 brought him more World titles, both in the individual sprint and the team sprint categories.
2012 would be a year of highs and lows for the Frenchman as, due to his missing several tests due to be administered by World Cycling’s Anti-Doping Agency, he was stripped of his World Championship titles from the previous year. He said, in response to the ruling by World Cycling, that he was sad, not so much that he had lost his own medals, but that he had deprived his team-mates in the team sprint of theirs. He received a one-year suspension but, fortunately, it was backdated to the previous year, meaning that Baugé would be able to compete in the year to come. He was able to gain a degree of redemption and re-take the World Champion individual sprint title and, at the 2012 Olympic games in London, he took Silver medals in the individual and the team sprint categories.
His last World Championship wins would come in 2015, taking both the individual and team sprint titles for a final time. Five years hence, he steps away from the sport with a hell of a resume and a very full trophy cabinet. We at Veloflow wish him all the best in his retirement.