What about the French teams this Sunday?

Sebastien Hinault Roubaix

They are not favourites but that’s no reason to ignore them. Paris-Roubaix is the only one of the five Monuments in France so I thought I’d take a look at the French teams and their chances and options for tomorrow. Plus there’s a quick look at France’s best chance, Sylvain Chavanel tacked on to the end of this piece.

AG2R La Mondiale
081 HINAULT Sébastien
082 ELMIGER Martin
083 GODDAERT Kristof
084 HOUANARD Steve
086 MINARD Sébastien
087 MONDORY Lloyd
088 RAVARD Anthony

Martin Elmiger is strong, the kind of big rouleur who thrives on these roads. But the Swiss champion is unlikely to carry the red and white jersey in quite the same manner last year when Fabian Cancellara rode solo. Lloyd Mondory is a solid rider with a fast finish but few wins to his name. Sébastien Hinault, no meline DNA, was a surprise ninth place last year, he might again feature at some point but perhaps not in front of the TV cameras, more by stealth. Ag2r might be the sole French team with the UCI ProTeam status but I’d be surprised if they added many points by Sunday.

101 COYOT Arnaud
102 CASPER Jimmy
104 LEMOINE Cyril
105 MARTIAS Rony
106 MATHEOU Romain
107 PAIANI Jean Lou
108 POULHIES Stéphane

Twelfth last year whilst with the Spanish Caisse D’Epargne, Arnaud Coyot knows some of the roads as he lives close to the start. Jimmy Engoulvent is another chunky rider with a fast finish, he excels in short intense efforts. But he’s really a prologue specialist and might be tested by the distance. Jimmy Casper is always good value in smaller races. Rony Martias has been active in recent races, it would be nice to see him an early break.

121 GUESDON Frédéric
122 BONNAIRE Olivier
123 BONNET William
124 CHAINEL Steve
125 DELAGE Mickaël
126 HUTAROVICH Yauheni
127 LADAGNOUS Matthieu
128 ROLLIN Dominique

By contrast FDJ have the strongest line-up for Sunday. Fréd Guesdon is a francophone Andreas Klier but with a win in Paris-Roubaix to his name from 1997. He’s now 39, has ridden the race 16 times making him an invaluable road captain. The protected riders will be cyclocross expert Steve Chainel, no stranger to the front end of a classic and Dominique Rollin, with the Canadian 15th in Flanders and more suited to this Sunday’s flatter parcours with his 83kg bulk. William Bonnet and Matthieu Ladagnous are strong riders to help position leaders. Hutarovich is a wild card for a sprint finish if a big group arrived but we’re talking so wild it’s close to extinction.

Marc Madiot
Marc Madiot's been to hell and back several times

The additional factor is Marc Madiot, team manager. As a rider he won the amateur version once and the pro version twice before winning as a manager too. He loves this race and will be using all his charisma to motivate the troops. As such, FDJ stand out by far as the best French squad for Sunday.

152 DUQUE Leonardo
153 ISTA Kevin
154 LABBE Arnaud
155 PETIT Adrien
156 SARAMOTINS Aleksejs
157 SIJMENS Nico
158 ZINGLE Romain

The French press often labels Cofidis l’equipe nordiste, meaning the team from the north of France. The team sponsor’s corporate headquarters are just 5km down the road from Roubaix. But for all the pressure to deliver, the roster is not looking too strong. Jens Keukeleire is a real prospect for the future but hasn’t quite landed the results expected so far this season. Leonardo Duque popped up in the final of Flanders to crack the top-20, a good personal result but he’ll need a bit of luck to repeat that.

Team Europcar
191 PICHOT Alexandre
192 CHAVANEL Sébastien
193 CLAUDE Mathieu
194 GAUDIN Damien
195 GENE Yohann
196 HADDOU Saïd
197 TURGOT Sébastien
198 VEILLEUX David

Ah, Chavanel. Oh no, the wrong one. Europcar’s Sébastien Chavanel is the younger brother of Sylvain and is more of sprinter. He’s had a career plagued by back problems. The problems seem over but a result in this race seems hard. Both Saïd Haddou and Sébastien Turgot are the sorts of rider I’d expect in an early move.

241 LE BON Johan
242 BONSERGENT Stephane
243 DELPECH Jean Luc
244 DION Renaud
245 DURET Sebastien
246 HALLEGUEN Mathieu
248 VACHON Florian

It’s mean but I hardly noticed these guys in Paris-Nice. They might manage to get a guy in the early move but if you turn on your TV with 50km to go, well click here to see what the jersey looks like. I don’t mean to be harsh, just realistic and wish the guys well. Look out for Florian Vachon, Johan Le Bon and Renaud Dion.

Sylvain Chavanel beaten
Oh so close

Le top des Français
Finally the best chance of a French result is probably not from any of these teams. Instead, we’re talking about Sylvain Chavanel who rides shotgun with Tom Boonen at Quick Step. He’s on form, indeed he said he’s “on fire” now so it will be he who carries the burden of national expectation on the cobbles.

It’s a pity he’s discovered his classics talent so late but there are two factors at play here. First when he joined Cofidis he started working closely with new team coach Vincent Villerius, the Dutch sports science expert convinced him to use SRM cranks and make his training more methodical. He managed to make some improvements and this led to a win in the Flèche Brabançonne in 2008 where he left Philippe Gilbert and Juan-Antonio Flecha trailing. This then gave him the stature to say “I can win one day races”.

It’s this ability to defy the Tour de France that has helped him. July is the month that overshadows all others for French teams and many a talented Frenchman is sucked into thoughts of stage wins and even overall glory or the mountains prize, especially since their team is so dependent on it. It’s hard to tell the team you want a shot at Gent-Wevelgem or Het Nieuwsblad instead.

But Chavanel managed to do this at Cofidis and it’s improved immensely. It also explains why he’s been willing to work for Boonen and take his chances rather than being the team leader who must deliver in the Tour de France; ironically he seems to do both though, but with less pressure thanks to a foreign team. I can’t help wonder if other French riders should be thinking the same.

5 thoughts on “What about the French teams this Sunday?”

  1. I really like FDJ’s squad this year. They have a number of exciting riders. Rollin has been exceptionally consistent this year—hovering in the top fifteen of a series of races—and is due for something better. In addition, he spent some time living in and around Roubaix and knows the roads well.

  2. I rule out all of them, because Chavanel won’t surprise anyone this Sunday, and race tactics will assure that following wheels isn’t going to work this time.

    I do know that the winner will give a great post-race interview in English, and not for the first time. What I can’t do is speculate on what sort of accent it will be.

  3. It really is getting crazy that the Frenchies as a whole have never come back to the fore since the ’98 Festina scandal. Yes they throw us a few bones here and there, but as one of the premiere cycling nations, the drought has to hurt the citizens egos.

  4. Starr – nothing crazy, just a good longitudinal testing program (kind of like the bio passport, just 10 years earlier) keeping the big dopers from competing.

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