Tony Gallopin: An anatomy of a road captain

After many years with the rank of the leader, the French rider has re-established his career with a new role and new ambitions. “When I returned to the Trek family, I had clear ideas on what I wanted and could bring.”

In 2010, Tony Gallopin made his professional debut. Not even four months after his first race, La Marsellaise, young Tony won the third stage of the Tour de Luxembourg. From then on, his path in professional cycling was marked by becoming “a rider capable of getting results”, as he explains.

Over the next ten years, Gallopin proved himself more than equal to that task. After his success in Luxembourg, 11 more victories came, including a stage at the Tour de France, the Clasica San Sebastian and a stage at the Vuelta a Espana. In addition, 55 podium results and, last but by no means least, a day as race leader at La Grande Boucle. Wearing the Maillot Jaune, the symbol of his home race, the dream of not only every French rider but maybe all who start cycling.

Winning, or at least trying to do that, was what my teams used to ask of me. For many years, I raced with the responsibilities of the leader. I enjoyed that time.

“Then, when I passed the age of 30, I realized that my progression as an athlete was over,” says Tony. “I was aiming high when I was going to races, but my legs were no longer responding the way I wanted and the results were not coming. I felt the responsibility of my role, but I could not perform as I wanted. It took a while to deal with that moment, but it served to revive my motivations.”

The search for new stimuli coincided with the change of team for Gallopin. In 2022, he returned to race on a Trek bike, as he did previously in 2012 and 2013 with RadioShack team. The new jersey also brought a new role. Tony joined Trek-Segafredo as the new point of reference for team leaders: the road captain.

The mental switch was easy because it was something I felt like doing. And I also felt inclined to do it. When I was a leader, I knew perfectly what I was needed from my teammates. Thanks to that, now I know what I have to do perfectly.

“Of course, my approach to racing has changed a lot. I used to go racing with tension, knowing that lots of people were working for me to get a result. I used to be focused on tactics, on my contenders, how to find the right opportunity to attack. I was used to caring about my feelings, my legs, saving my energy as much as possible,”

“Now, I’m the first who must convey calm. And when the real race starts, the decisive selection comes, my race ends. My work is getting wind in my face, protecting the leaders and putting them in the right place at the right time. Good or not good, my legs must be there and the work has to be done. In that moment you have to be ready. Not before, not after.”

The experience as a leader was definitely a masterclass for Tony to understand how to best fulfil his new role. But during those years, he also got the chance to see many riders at work in the role of road captain.

“The rider who best represented the road captain is Yaroslav ‘Popo’ Popovych. I was at the beginning of my career, and I saw him racing only for the good of his teammates, never for himself. He was always ready to sacrifice himself, without blinking an eye. And he had a very respectable palmares behind him. That was impressive for me.”

Just as Popo was an invaluable helper for young Tony, today he has to be the one who supports the talented next generation of Trek-Segafredo.

“When I was young, the road captain was a key figure to become a real pro rider. Now, young people have a wealth of knowledge that makes them professionals right from the start. So, the road captain now plays a more important role on a personal level. He must be able to de-escalate tension, he must use his experience to handle the hottest moments without stressing. Perhaps, the most important part of his job, is knowing the leaders he has to support. Because in the end, we are all different and I have to be different too,”

“In the team we have leaders who convey a lot of security; others who are more emotional and need an extra word to gain confidence. In the race, with some riders you can afford a more aggressive style, because they want to stay in the front and they remain stuck to my wheel to make it happen. With others, who are more shy or relaxed in the peloton, you have to bring them into the right position only at the last moment. Everyone is different and everyone needs a different approach.”

Last but not least, a good road captain has to know how to pull the strings of the team.


There are more timid teammates, to whom saying too much can be counterproductive, and others who need a tougher approach, even rude. Personal relationships are a key factor. It’s the secret of winning teamwork and the road captain must be the caretaker of that