FDJ back in the Pro Tour

Monday, 21 November 2011

FDJ logo

French team FDJ will rejoin the UCI ProTour in 2012. The team received confirmation from the UCI via email this afternoon and the official announcement is expected tomorrow. It matters for a team that has ambitions to grow and to nurture French talent.

It’s obviously good news for the French squad after losing out this time last year. There was a spat over a late paperwork with FDJ saying they sent over details of Anthony Roux’s contract but the UCI reported this was submitted late. As a result Roux’s points did not count and the team dropped out of the top flight.

Does it matter?
I’m in two minds. FDJ are a great, cohesive team but they have not won big. Despite riding many races on the World Tour calendar they didn’t win a single one, although there were several second places. As a French team though they are all but guaranteed a “wildcard” invitation to the Tour de France and other prestigious domestic races like Paris-Roubaix, the Dauphiné or Paris-Nice. So I wonder if spending a lot of money on a licence is worth it given their nationality equates to a golden ticket for July.

On the other hand, the team discovered the downsides of being outside of the ProTour. First, they were looked at as a second division team, obvious really but remember Française des Jeux (FDJ) is the French state lottery and by extension, this is almost the national team. Not like Team Sky is British or Astana is from Kazakhstan but FDJ is closely associated with sport in France. But there were other problems. Next they only got to ride one grand tour, the Tour de France. This meant picking the best nine riders on the squad but the others never got a ride a three week stage race all year. Consequently young riders could not be tested in a big race outside of the Tour de France and more established riders didn’t get the mileage a pro needs in their legs.

Crossroads
FDJ have been sponsoring a team since 1997. The sponsor almost pulled out amidst after doping products were discovered but instead agreed a plan: they would commit to fund a team for the long term if the team management would commit to riding clean. I think it’s worked and can’t remember a rider testing positive. Maybe this is no guarantee but they have some credibility in the bank, remember Philippe Gilbert chose the team as he felt he could develop free from pressure.

Gilbert FDJ

Philippe Gilbert back in the day

Charismatic Marc Madiot has been reaching out to sports scientists in recent years, in particular Dr Frédéric Grappe. This should be turning the team from its band of riders under a father figure into something more sophisticated. With promising riders like Thibaut Pinot, Yoann Offredo and U-23 world champion Arnaud Demare 2012 should be big year.

Growth
One final thing to look out for is the sponsor. BigMat is a franchise operation of building materials (think “big materials”) and it has been sponsoring the continental level BigMat-Auber which itself rode the Tour de France in 1996. This sponsorship will continue but the company is expanding into Italy, Spain, Belgium and the Czech Republic and this international aspect is behind the decision to back a team with a reach beyond France. With its ProTour status for 2012, FDJ is exactly that.

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{ 15 comments }

Mary Topping November 21, 2011 at 9:08 pm

Thanks, I enjoy reporting on the French teams.

Do you remember the year the sponsor almost pulled out but for the plan to ride “clean?” I’m wondering if it was before or after Garmin’s declaration about anti-doping.

The Inner Ring November 21, 2011 at 9:12 pm

Mary: I don’t remember the exact year but it was probably the summer of 1998.

Karl November 21, 2011 at 9:23 pm

Nice piece in FDJ. The brief piece on cyclingnews.com said that Europcar’s application was rejected. Any reasons or thoughts as to why, when they arguably had a better year than FDJ?

Mary Topping November 21, 2011 at 9:24 pm

INRNG: thanks for the reply. That would put them before Garmin.

DP November 21, 2011 at 9:43 pm

Has anything been heard on the other licensee applicants?

John B November 21, 2011 at 9:47 pm

Its great that FDJ is Worldtour, but I seriously doubt if AG2R is Worldtour material (according to cyclingnews, AG2R also obtained the golden lottery ticket). I would have prefered that Europcar got the license.

The Inner Ring November 21, 2011 at 10:00 pm

- Astana Pro Team
- BMC Racing Team
- Garmin-Cervélo
- Lampre – ISD
- Liquidas – Cannondale
- Movistar Team
- Rabobank
- Sky Procycling
- Vacansoleil-DCM
- Katusha Team 2012-2015
- FDJ 2012-2014
- Lotto Belisol Team 2012-2015
- Omega Pharma – Quick-Step Cycling Team 2012-2014
- Team Saxo Bank 2012
- AG2R La Mondiale
- Euskaltel-Euskadi

All get Pro Tour licences. We are now waiting for news on Greenedge and Radioshack.

My sense is that Greenedge could be close to a sponsor so this deal is being reviewed in the light of any good news. It could be that the Radioshack-Leopard “merger” is causing legal troubles over contracts. But this is speculative and belongs in the comments instead of the blog itself.

MT Dave November 22, 2011 at 3:31 am

I’m glad and I will be keeping an eye out and cheering for Offredo. I just like the dude. And I like FDJ because I believe they are above suspicion. Key word ‘believe’. You hear that Yoann? A complete stranger in Montana is rooting for you so ‘get some’!

rhys November 22, 2011 at 3:53 am

More Jeremy Roy in the spotlight is always a good thing – he encourages me to attack when I ride.
I’m also really happy to be seeing such a glorious kit once again in the peloton.

Bundle November 22, 2011 at 9:24 am

Nice piece. And good for FDJ.
On another note: will the Inner Ring do a following of the sirloin trial?

TomC November 22, 2011 at 10:09 am

As Karl asks, is there any reason that Europcar did not get a place when AG2R did? Seems like a bizarre situation given the impact Europcar seem to have had this season. Unless we are placing too much emphasis on their Tour performance and the performance of Voeckler in general. Did AG2R have a better ‘spread’ of performance over the year? By my memory it does not seem so.

I would have loved for Europcar to have gotten World Tour status and see Voeckler, Rolland et al animating big races all year round.

The Inner Ring November 22, 2011 at 10:59 am

Europcar simply didn’t have the UCI points it needed. Voeckler did well, Kern scored a few points and Rolland got some too but beyond that the squad was a bit light at times this year and didn’t recruit any big names to bring points. They talked to Hushovd, Pozzato and others but they didn’t join.

Larry T. November 22, 2011 at 3:03 pm

So BigMat’s part of FdJ’s sponsor package now? They already have outlets in Italy and are sponsors of the Gresini MOTOGP team of the late Marco Simoncelli, so they have promotional euros to spend. While they probably had little to fear scandal-wise with Garmin, with FdJ they get a similarly clean team and the national angle to boot. I’m sorry for JV, but this is probably a better fit and may last longer than a Garmin sponsorship would have. I still think there are simply too many allowed into the top-tier…if sponsorship is such a big problem, let this level drop to 12 teams with the big-money backers, leaving 4 2nd tier teams (or more if they can find ‘em) for discretionary selection by the race promoters.

parrigm November 22, 2011 at 6:30 pm

Glad to see that FDJ is finally in the ProTour. Link inrng said it allows for their other riders to compete in other Grand Tours and gives these up and coming French athletes a chance to prove themselves and shine. I absolutely love watching Jeremy Roy in attack mode!

Velo Peloton November 22, 2011 at 10:34 pm

FDJ have the best kit, that should be reason enough.

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