Social Security

For years French teams faced a headwind in the shape of high payroll taxes but this system is now rewarding them. Coupled with stable sponsors and home advantage when it comes to hosting the Tour de France, the three French squads in the World Tour are in a stronger position these days relative to their rivals.

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The Finances of Ag2r La Mondiale

Want to run a pro team? You need millions of Euros a year. Here’s a closer look at the team budget of Ag2r La Mondiale, the French team in the World Tour sponsored by one of France’s largest mutual insurance companies.

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Book Review: “Parlons Vélo” with Marc Madiot

Parlons Vélo by Marc Madiot and Mathieu Coureau

It’s written in French so at first sight a book review may not be of great use to an anglophone audience but it’s a hook to write about Marc Madiot, share some legendary anecdotes and show some hidden sides to one of the sport’s bigger personalities.

Often seen as a hothead and a relic from the past there’s the story of a manager who, while Russian billionaires come and go, has lead one of the sport’s longest lasting teams and sponsorship deals.

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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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Can A Frenchman Make The Podium In Paris?

With Vincenzo Nibali in command the race is on for the other riders to seize their chance. Can a Frenchman can finish on the podium in Paris? Yes because Romain Bardet and Thibaut Pinot are duelling for the white jersey, just 16 seconds separate them while Michał Kwiatkowski is 14 minutes behind. Barring a double disaster a Frenchman will stand on the podium on the Champs Elysées.

Enough smart answers, the real question is whether a Frenchman can finish in the top three overall? Bardet is third overall and Pinot fourth but there are three mountain stages and a long time trial to come.

It’s a result many in France want to see but there’s also wider support for this outcome. But could it be a big dream and a rude awakening awaits? On the rest day here’s a look at the GC contenders.

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French Cycling’s Taxing Problem

Chris Froome President Hollande

Tax is a big topic in France right now. With a promise to cut its budget deficit, the French government has been looking for ways to raise extra revenue. Meanwhile unemployment is high and many agonize over the long-standing high payroll taxes that make hiring expensive.

Beyond the newspaper front page or the business section, the saga of football club AS Monaco’s promotion to the top league of French football has put the spotlight on zero-tax Monaco vs high-tax France. It’s also a big issue behind the scenes in cycling. If it’s not a talking topic, high payroll taxes in France are fundamental to understanding why French teams face an uphill task compared to their rivals.

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Winter Training

Yesterday’s post on points explained the importance of March and April for teams and riders alike. But if the start of the new season is a month away, most of the peloton faces damp and cold roads. Some find snow and ice block the way.

It’s a case of fight or flight. Riders can don the thermals and do battle with the winter and adopt alternative training plans. Or they can fly to somewhere warmer, lodging in out of season resorts where weak sunlight and quiet roads await.

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