Bernaudeau’s Energy

Europcar manager Jean-René Bernaudeau has found a replacement sponsor in Direct Energie, a supplier of electricity and natural gas that operates in France and Belgium. It keeps the team on the road and also does the whole sport some good because here’s a sponsor from outside the sport that wants to use the team as a means to win new customers.

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The End of The Road?

This week is supposed to tell us whether Europcar will continue as a team or not. Deadline after deadline has been pushed back but the point has been reached where the team’s riders cannot wait much longer.

In the short term the uncertainty has caused parts of the rider transfer market to jam up but beyond this is the prospect of losing a team that’s been enjoyable and innovative along the way.

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Friday Shorts

Astana have been made to wait a week in order to get their licence for 2015. You suspect Alexander Vinokourov wouldn’t sweat if you put him in a banya but even the granite-faced Astana team boss must be feeling embarrassed.

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Team Victory Rankings

We’re one quarter of the way through the cycling season already. 25% of the season’s racing days have been ridden. As we go into the peak classics season Omega Pharma-Quick Step and Giant-Shimano lead.

But as you’ll see below the win rate has almost no correlation to a team’s World Tour ranking, winning often doesn’t mean a team tops the rankings. Plus there’s the Pro Conti chart below.

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Bryan Coquard, The Green Knight

A 20 year old neo-pro with two stage wins in his first race? That’s quite a start for Europcar’s Bryan Coquard. For sure he’s got a long way to go as the opposition in the Etoile de Bessèges was not the best and this is only an early season race. Still, he’s the youngest rider in the race and his margin of victory was so big that when I put a photo on Twitter someone asked if he’d been in a breakaway because he was surely too far ahead of the bunch to have won the sprint.

Only he’s not a new name with Olympic, World, European and National medals across a range of disciplines to go with a long list of victories on the road and track alike.

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Sunday Shorts

Tropicale Amissa Bongo

AICAR test in place – Dutch doping amnesty – Steven de Jongh passes go – Europcar to quit? – Big teams for Bongo – Grand Tours and breakaway cities – ASO vs RCS

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Team TV Adverts

That’s the youtube version of the advert showing on French TV for Accor Hotels, the French hotel operator. The company is a co-sponsor of the Europcar team and they’ve linked the team with their ad campaign. Hopefully the production didn’t cost much.

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Tour de France wildcards?

The Giro d’Italia announced the four teams invited to take part in the race last week. The choice of Team NetApp caused some controversy but that’s all part of the fun and I was pleased to see race direttore Michele Acquarone setting out the conditions before and explaining the timing and then commenting on the picks afterwards. And today we’ve learned of the six teams invited to the Tour of Flanders in April.

By contrast the wildcard picks for the Tour de France are a mystery. I’m told we’ll hear some time in February and the criteria for an invitation to the world’s biggest bike race are a mystery. Is a French exam involved?

Jokes aside, we can guess organisers ASO want some French riders in the race and also to invite some exciting teams for the race. With this in mind, here’s a look at the candidates for one of the four golden tickets this July.

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Is Pierre Rolland the next big thing?

Pierre Rolland Alpe d'Huez

Aged 24, Pierre Rolland won the Tour de France stage on Alpe d’Huez today and took the White Jersey. Is he the next big thing in French cycling? No, Pierre Rolland was the next big thing three years ago.

It happened in 2008 when he was a second year pro on the Crédit Agricole team and took the mountains jersey in the Dauphiné stage race in June, aged just 21. Don’t take my word for it, back then asked aloud: is Pierre Rolland France’s next big thing?

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Where do the French riders live?

Above is a map of France. Look closely and you’ll see coloured dots marking where riders from each of the four main French cycling teams are from. I’d been wondering if the teams had any regional bias towards signing riders and finally got round to charting where the riders are all from. Bbox, now Europcar, … Read more