Where are they now? Crédit Agricole 1999

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Crédit Agricole 1999

The Leopard-Trek team spent the first rest day of the Tour de France at the Gabarit Hôtel and in the reception area were several photos from the past when the GAN team, later known as Crédit Agricole. Fabian Cancellara joked about Stuart O’Grady who features in the photos from the late nineties but he’s not the only big name rider on this team.

I found the full photo on the excellent Site du Cyclisme website and the first thing that stands out is the size of the squad. 18 riders in total, small by today’s standards when several teams are at the UCI-limit of 30 riders and able to cover three races simultaneously even with a few injured riders. Back in 1999 Crédit Agricole was not the biggest team but it certainly was competitive; in 2001 the squad won the team time trial stage of the Tour de France.

Going through the riders from left to right:

  • Anthony Langella on the far left, a strong rouleur and track rider who is the director of a racing team in his home town of Marmande.
  • Stuart O’Grady is riding for Leopard-Trek and an invaluable helper thanks to his strong riding and ability to judge a race on the road.
  • At the back is Eros Poli, the tall Italian famously won a stage of the Tour de France over Mont Ventoux and described himself to Cyclesport magazine as “famous for being tall and coming last in the Giro d’Italia“.
  • In the Australian champions jersey is Henk Vogels Junior,  a fast finisher who was twice 10th in Paris-Roubaix, he’s been managing the Fly-V cycling team before getting caught in the demise of the Pegasus team.
  • That’s Jens Voigt smiling. Today with Leopard-Trek, at the time he was a neighbour of Vogels and O’Grady and even was known for his powerful style on the bike.
  • Next, at the back, comes Frédéric Delalande who didn’t last too long with the team, returning to the amateur scene to continue racing.
  • In the front row is Cédric Vasseur, a strong and clever rider who left to join US Postal, he is today an expert pundit for Belgian TV.
  • Frédéric Finot is at the back, a strong rouleur who still races as an amateur and works as a fireman today.
  • At the front is Chris Boardman, the British rider won numerous time trials and track races and now works for the British media as well as overseeing a brand of bikes.
  • Sébastien Hinault is there, today he rides for Ag2r and goes by the nickname of “Papy“, meaning granddad because he’s one of the oldest riders in the pro peloton.
  • Jérôme Neuville is at the back, he won several national and world titles on the track as well as being a helpful lead out man on the road. He rode in four Olympic games. Today he works for the Lyon métro transport system.
  • In front is François Simon who would go on to wear the French champion’s jersey later in the year and the yellow jersey in 2001. The youngest of four brothers Régis, Pascal and Jérôme, all of whom rode as pros.
  • Frank Pencolé is next, a domestique rider for the team.
  • At the back is Magnus Backstedt is visible for his blond hair. Then the heaviest rider in the pro peloton he went on to win Paris-Roubaix and still races today, has a bike shop whilst doing some media work with Eurosport too. At the time I think he was sharing a flat with Jens Voigt.
  • Next is Kiwi Chris Jenner. He made his way to France and delivered some very promising results as an amateur and was soon signed by Roger Legeay but the results didn’t come as a pro although he was part of the winning team effort in the 2001 Tour de France. Today he still rides and runs a video rental shop in the French pacific island of New Caledonia.
  • Olivier Perraudeau was another team helper.
  • At the front is Frédéric Moncassin, a sprinter and, in a nice way, a madman. He took two stages in the Tour de France and finished on the podium in Milan-Sanremo and the Tour of Flanders. Known for his bike-handling he today rides MTB downhill races, motocross and won a round of the Red Bull Road Rage series.
  • At the back is Marcel Gono, the Australian rider came through the Australian Institute of Sport programme. But he was born in Piešťany, in what is Slovakia today and has returned there to run a building services company.

Finally the team had two late additions when Pierrick Fédrigo and Thor Hushovd joined the squad as stagiaires or interns. The rest is history.

Ankush July 17, 2011 at 1:03 pm

Amazing piece, filling us more on procycling history.

Qwerty July 17, 2011 at 4:49 pm

Good read with little happening in the TDF stage today.

beth July 17, 2011 at 6:05 pm

I have seen Magnus Backstedt on the post-race analysis if he is the guy who is now bald? I get a little confused with the left-to-right listing, but I think Sebastien Hinault must be standing immediately to Magnus’s left? (I have forgotten how to convert my keypad to French lettering; In a Mac, how do you do that these days?)

beth July 17, 2011 at 6:09 pm

Sorry, I meant immediately to Magnus’s right. (our left)

Paul July 17, 2011 at 6:48 pm

Interesting how none of them have since been embroiled in doping scandals. If you did the same for some other teams of the time, I wonder if the result would be the same (US Postal for instance)?

wom July 17, 2011 at 7:01 pm

Beth – go to System Preferences in dock, then Language and Text, then input sources. Click on French and it will put the flag in the menu bar so that you can swap.

Inrng – I love this site – you take real care in the work and it is great to read, thankyou.

Dozed off on the settee watching stage 15 today but woke in time for the finish. perfect sunday afternoon.

The Inner Ring July 17, 2011 at 7:42 pm

Beth: Chris Boardman is sitting on the bike, if you point at his head, Hinault is at one o’clock.

Pedalingtheroad July 17, 2011 at 10:56 pm

Nothing like a retro picture, great stuff. Got to thinking, a couple of funny anecdotes to this team: As you mention Hushovd came onboard later, trying to become the preferred sprinter of the team, something O’Grady didn’t like. Never a good thing to have two guys on the same team sprinting against the other… Happened several times. Voigt and Hushovd became very close friends, Hushovd was the best man in Voigt’s wedding.

C Grade Cyclist July 18, 2011 at 3:24 am

Great article – thanks INRNG!!

That’s an incredible rider history for such a ‘small’ team – I wonder if there are many others that can claim so many genuine hardmen of the sport…?? I guess the only thing they lacked (like so many French teams in the modern era) was a genuine grand tour GC contender…

Matt Rose July 18, 2011 at 4:02 am

Paul, one of the later ( a couple of years after this pic was taken IIRC) members of CA was Jonathan Vaughters. I think he got a lot of his attitude on doping from Roger Legeay. The bee-sting incident in particular was instructive.

God. That picture was only taken 11 years ago.

jkeltgv July 18, 2011 at 12:32 pm

When I first went to France as a young Australian I always used their cash machines. Gave me a real thrill to think I was supporting Stuey. My brothers both had “Gan” jerseys for the same reason…..at the time we got 30 minutes highlights of each tour stage about 14 hours after it happened and no other cycling all year.

This was one of the many years Stuey came second to Zabel on points….it was little wonder they were thinking of bringing in more of a pure sprinter, in fairness. And Thor did go on to win it for them.

Matt Rose July 18, 2011 at 4:29 pm

This is what I was referring to. I didn’t have time to dig it up this morning. Having read that it doesn’t shock me that none of the 1999 CA team have been busted for doping.

From Anthony Tan’s interview in cyclingnews, I found here:
http://www.cyclingnews.com/road/features/jonathan-vaughters-the-sleek-geek

Sting in the tale, but a long time coming

Things become blurrier still when Vaughters joined French team Crédit Agricole at the start of 2000.

Kimmage wrote: “For the first time in six years, Vaughters had found his natural home. He liked the manager, Roger Legeay, and his way of doing business. The 18 months that followed were the happiest of his career… until the sting in the tale at Pau,” the latter in part referring to his infamous wasp sting, which swelled his right eye to golf ball proportions, a week before he was due to finish his first Tour de France in 2001, and being told by the team doctor that if he took a cortisone injection and was tested, he’d be declared positive. He chose to quit the race.

(The spelling of ‘tale’ is not an error; as Kimmage wrote, it refers to an incident with an unnamed though “famous rider” the morning following his decision to abandon: “Poor Jonathan and his stupid little team,” the rider spat. “What the f*** are you like? If you were on my team this would have been taken care of, but now you are not going to finish the Tour de France because of a wasp sting.”

Said Vaughters: “I thought, ‘F***! Here I am, on this team that is really trying to stick by the books and this guy is making fun of us for playing by the rules’. My heart just left me after that. It just made me sad, just irrevocably sad. I raced [the following year] in 2002 but that was the moment that effectively ended my career. Phew! I was done. I didn’t want to race any more. It just didn’t seem to matter to me after that.”)

But the way Vaughters told his experiences at Crédit Agricole to me, just weeks after leaving, goes against the grain of Kimmage’s 2008 story.

Asked if was to do with the entrenched, old-school European culture of the team, having come from two years at US Postal, he said: “I never minded the foreign culture part… But the only guy I really had a friendship with was Chris Boardman, and he left after my first year there.

“It [Crédit Agricole] was a team where everyone kinda showed up, did their job and went home. I mean, the communication between the French riders and the foreign riders is really minimal and the environment to really perform was never really there. There was never a pathway saying, ‘If you do this, you’ll do really well’.

“It was Roger [Legeay] saying: ‘We’ve got to do well, hurry up and do well’, and getting really stressed about the results not being there and not defining a clear method to follow to enable us to do well. So it was kind of a stagnant environment – I felt like my last couple of years there was a matter of waiting for my paycheck and the end of every month, and that was the only thing that was making me turn up.”

Vaughters also told me his angst had been grinding at him long before he joined Crédit Agricole. “I spent nine years in Europe as a pro, and I also spent nine years being homesick,” he said.

“Every once in a while, I would just completely flip out and realise all I’ve been doing is riding a bike for the past three or four months, and when everyone was heading out to do their six-hour training ride I would say, ‘I’m not going today’.

“I’d head down to the local art supply store and start whippin’ out oil paintings for three or four days in a row to just settle my mind back down to sanity… And I think Christian [Vande Velde] always thought that was funny but at the same time he’d realise, well, that it was also completely understandable.”

stan July 18, 2011 at 7:01 pm

Brilliant! Aaaand, me thinks the Inrng might have had some ties to this bunch.

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