25 June 2013

Tour de France 2013: The Teams 13: AG2R - La Mondiale

On the eleventh the first five riders of AG2R - La Mondiale were named. The remaining four were only announced after the completion of the national championships at the weekend. With the final line up they have an all French line up.

The leader is Jean-Christophe Péraud who won a silver medal in the Beijing Olympics in the Mountain Bike race. The following year he was the surprise winner on the roads of the French national time trial championships which lead to him signing for Omega Pharma - Quick-Step for the following season before his move to AG2R - La Mondiale. In 2011 he was 9th the the GC. This year he finished third in Paris-Nice behind Sky's Richie Porte and Garmin's Andrew Talansky. He is 36 and only riding in his third tour.

Of the other four named in advance the first is Romain Bardet. The 22 year old Frenchman is only in his second season as a pro. But last year showed he could go on the attack in the mountains in the Tour of Turkey. He ended up 5th on the tough stage 3 and 5th overall. He finished his preparations for his debut Tour with a fourth place finish in the Route du Sud behind Tommy Voeckler (MOV).

Maxime Bouet will be taking part in his five consecutive Tour since his debut in 2009. This season he came third in the Giro del Trentino which was won by Vincenzo Nibali (AST) but two places better than Bradley Wiggins (SKY). His best result in a Tour stage came on stage 2 from Brussels to Spa when he led the pack home behind a Sylvain Chavanel (OPQ) lone victory. That day the sprinters were left behind due to a hilly end to the day.

Puncheur Samuel Dumoulin has returned this season from Cofidis where he had raced since 2008. That first year at Cofidis he won his only stage in the Tour when he was part of a four man breakaway on the road to Nantes on stage 3, he out sprinted the others to take the line.This will be his tenth participation in the Tour. He has regularly taken stages on lesser Tour including 3 in the Étoile de Bessèges and 3 in the Volta a Catalunya, in the latter in 2009 he took the points classification without winning a stage that year.

Blel Kardi was 8th in the 2011 Tour Under. But this year was part of a breakaway in the first hour of the Roma Maxima, with 40km to go he attacked and left his escape companions behind and held off the peleton to triumph in Rome. This year will be the 26 year old's 3rd Tour, he has completed both his previous circuits as he has his two appearances in the Vuelta. In that first Tour in 2011 he did manage to finish 23rd on the last mountain stage to Alpe d'Huez.

Hubert Dupont is a climber with some high finishes in Grand Tours. He was 11th in the 2011 Giro and 16th the following year. He was also 21st in the 2011 Tour and his best Vuelta was 17th in 2008. He's already ridden this years Giro but his climbing legs will be there to assist Péraud in the Tour. This season he was 2nd in the Mountain Classification of Étoile de Bessèges and 7th in the GC of the Route du Sud.

John Gadret is another super domestique like Dupont. He was actually 3rd in that 2011 Giro. In 2010 he was 18th in the Tour a position he also achieved in the 2008 Vuelta. This season he has been been 3rd in the Route du Sud, 10th in the Critérium International and Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco. Despite making his Grand Tour debut in 2004 this is only his 4th Tour and he has failed to complete two of those he did start. He is distinctive because of his bald head.

Sébastien Minard will be taking part in his 5th consecutive Tour. He was 4th in this year's Tour de Picardie. In 2010 he won the semi-classic Paris-Camembert and event which some of the World Tour teams use a preparation from the Ardennes Classics which follow it. In 2009 he recored his best result in Tour stage when he finished 5th on stage 14 into Besançon, one of the 12 men who had stayed away together for most of the stage. He finished 5'20" ahead of the main field that day, but 16 seconds down of Serguei Ivanov who made a late dash for the line.

Finally there is Christophe Riblon who has spent his whole professional career at AG2R since turning pro in 2005. This will be his 6th Tour since his first appearance in 2008, his highlight was the stage win in 2010 to Ax-3 Domaines. He was part of the break that went clear 30km into the day, but he crested the penultimate summit  Port de Pailheres alone, he had a 2 minute lead at the foot of Ax-3 Domaines retaining about half of that as the main contenders did battle behind him.

Péraud has plenty of support in this team, plus there are a number of opportunists who in the past have made it into successful breaks. No doubt AG2R will continue to send people up the road when they can, there are a French team, full of French riders in the Tour de France, so having men in the break is good for their sponsors. Péraud is capable of a top 10 finish, the form he had in Paris-Nice if he can carry it through to here with the support of Dupont and Gadret in the mountains should keep him in contention.

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