Five months after deciding this year would be my last, I have no regrets. But I do want to take my hat off to those who have made this 25-year journey of mine so beautiful and rich. At CSM Puteaux, my first club, I was supported by an educator who taught me everything. Eric Blanchon, our coach, passed his passion and desire for progress on to us by setting us goals. It is men and women like this who create vocations and get the best out of people, both on the bike and off. Wanting to get ahead of my friends and rivals is something that has served me throughout my career. Too bad if it also brought out my bad side. Eric helped me develop the feeling of doing everything to win, and above all to have the satisfacti­on of having done a job.

In my first years as a pro, I was closely watched because of my skin colour, and I had no room for errors. I had to be smarter, craftier or more hardworkin­g than others to break through. Chapeau to my spiritual father Jean-René Bernaudeau. He dared to break the code and bet on me. He taught me what the job of a pro was, and while our relationsh­ip has had ups and downs, I still carry it in my heart. He is a manager who never wastes words, even when he’s giving you a bollocking. He listens to his men and considers his riders like his children. My first year with him wasn’t easy, but I got a lot out of it. He and his staff have been very important to my career, and a guy like my DS Andy Flickinger got things out of me that I didn’t know were there. Ditto Thomas Voeckler, someone who is correct and has incredible charisma. It took me a year and a half to get to know him, but he allowed me to grow, as a cyclist and as a man. He took me out of my comfort zone a lot, which I needed.

Marc Madiot was also very important to my career. He never lies, and never lets his men down. Without his support, after my bad crash in the Vuelta, my career would have ended five years ago. He extended my contract and let me back in the game. Not every manager would have done that.

In cycling you have more enemies than friends, even in your own team. But I know I can count on some guys even after my career. Like Jimmy Turgis, one of the most passionate guys I’ve ever met. This past season he has been my trainer. I only ever loved racing, but he made me love cycling. It’s thanks to him that a rider like Franck Bonnamour, Super-Combatif of the Tour, has emerged this year.

These and more are the people who have shaped my career and this, my final year as a pro cyclist. It’s thanks to them that I have achieved what I have.

Chapeau to my spiritual father Jean- René Bernaudeau. He dared to break the code and bet on me. He taught me what the job of a pro was

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