Not every transfer gets a dedicated blog post but not every move seems to have generated as many questions by twitter and email. So here are a few notes and explainers on Warren Barguil’s move to Fortuneo-Oscaro in case you’re curious…
The role: Barguil might have ridden to tenth overall in the Tour de France but racing for GC is not for him. He told Eurosport’s Rois de la Pédale show during the Tour de France that “I don’t want to race for GC, to sit tight until the final moments on a climb, to limit the damage in the time trials” a phrase remarkable enough to be noted down at the time. Riders like Romain Bardet do this but it’s not easy dealing with the pressure every day, to try and crowd out the Sky steamroller. Instead Barguil wants room to attack and race as he pleases just as we saw in the Tour de France and it became obvious that he can’t do this at Sunweb with Tom Dumoulin.
The risks: that freedom to attack? It is helped by having the likes of Michael Matthews on the team and because your team have already won the Giro. Now doing this at Fortuneo-Oscaro won’t be the same, they will be banking on his attacks and success as essential rather than a delightful bonus. Sunweb are also known for their attention to detail, for the coaching support and more. Fortuneo-Oscaro are not and if they’ve also hired the consistent Amaël Moinard, 35, they’ll look to make more hires in support. Not that Barguil needs a mountain train, just a helper or two to fetch bottles.
Breton team: it marks a move back the squad Barguil rode for once as a stagiaire, a team founded in his native Brittany region, an area that is a hotbed of French cycling. Barguil is so attached to the region that, like many, he says he’s as much a Breton as a Frenchman. Barguil had moved to the south of France in search of better weather and longer climbs to train on but the move didn’t work out. His missed family and friends and in time moved back. The lesson here is that Barguil wants to live as he pleases rather than adopt the ascetic life of chasing every watt to the exclusion of other things in life.
A demotion? It is moving to a smaller team but hopefully the role Barguil wants to enjoy is clearer now. It’s not a first, Mark Cavendish joined Dimension Data before they got their World Tour licence, Cadel Evans quit a World Tour team to join BMC which was then a modest Pro Conti team, albeit backed an ambitious billionaire in Andy Rihs. This is a step down in UCI status but presumably Barguil picks up a substantial gain in salary and gets the freedom to race as he pleases that he would not find on any World Tour team, even a French squad like FDJ and Ag2r La Mondiale would mean uneasy cohabitation with the likes of Thibaut Pinot and Romain Bardet. It’s worth remembering too that Barguil rode for years at Skil-Shimano / Argos etc which became Sunweb and during the Pro Conti ranks.
No World Tour: Fortuneo-Oscaro aren’t moving up to the World Tour. They could not even if they wanted to because the UCI has announced the existing 18 teams have a spot and none of these teams are planning to quit the sport. But why would Fortuneo-Oscaro want to move up? With Warren Barguil they’re guaranteed wildcard invitations to many a race especially the Tour de France.
Funding the deal: The two sponsors are big, Fortuneo is an online banking brand belonging to a subsidiary of Crédit Mutuel, one of France’s biggest banks. Oscaro is a car parts retailer with operations in France, Belgium, Spain, Italy and the US and apparently has one of France’s most visited websites. Both are the kind who, when approached by the team’s manager Emmanuel Hubert, about a budget increase to buy Barguil, would have said yes because if it means increasing their contribution by, say, 20% the chance of a publicity bonanza next July rises by a much larger amount.
Still it means a big egg in a small basket. If Barguil gets ill or crashes ahead of the Tour the whole team’s ability to win takes a knock. They had a good Tour de France when measured against expectations of a Pro Conti team that doesn’t win much, now they will be held to a much higher standard and Barguil’s presence in, say, Paris-Nice, will mean pressure to prove himself and the team.
Meanwhile at Team Sunweb… the move frees up some space but they do lose a valuable climber. They’ve also lost Georg Preidler, part of Tom Dumoulin’s mountain guard in May, so will they be signing more support riders to accompany Dumoulin, Wilco Kelderman and Sam Oomen? There will be a few hundred thousand Euros to spare now.
Want more? This piece on Warren Barguil is a good primer on his background including his Paul McCartney barefoot moment and why his first team Skil-Shimano briefly thought he was Colombian…