25 June 2013

Tour de France 2013: The Teams 14 - Equipe Cycliste FDJ

After the National Championships at the weekend FDJ will be retaining the national colours on their team, even though the rider who had them last year didn't race in the Tour. They have some great young talents and two of the French stage winners from last year in their team for 2012.

Nacer Bouhanni is the young sprinter who shocked the French riders last year when he won the National Jersey. But he has worn it with honour this year without any commercial branding on his tricolour jersey. He will turn 23 in the week after the Tour, so may be chasing an early birthday present of a stage win on the Champs-Élysées. The only issue is that though is that since his debut in last year's Vuelta he hasn't completed either of the two Grand Tours he has started. In the Vuelta he has 3 top five finishes the best being 2nd on stage 10 to Sanxenxo where he was only beaten by John Degenkolb (ARG). In the Giro he also had three top five finishes a 2nd, 3rd (on the opening stage) and a 4th. But as will all sprinters in that race he lost out to Mark Cavendish (OPQ) on each occasion. He has however crossed the line five times first in that National Jersey which he has now given up to a team mate, including his first race in in Stage 1 of last year's Tour de Wallonie, as well as the opening stage of this year's Paris-Nice.

Thibaut Pinot was another of those French stage winners last year. It was a stage that included 7 categorised climbs and he was cheered home by his enthusiastic Directeur Sportive for a memorable final km. He was also the youngest rider in last year's Tour and it was his debut in Grand Tours. However, he ended up in 10th place, less than a minute behind the other young French hope Pierre Rolland. He comes to the Tour after a 4th place finish in the Tour de Suisse following 12th in the Tour de Romandie. If he shows the form of last year he will have the legs to challenge for the top 10 once again, though he will not be allowed so much leeway if he attack after his achievement last year.

Brazialian Murilo Antonio Fischer is the only non-French rider on this team. The 34 year came 5th in the 2005 World Championship road race behind Belgium's Tom Boonen. Having moved from Garmin this season the veteran sprinter will act as a lead out for the younger Bouhanni. It is his first time riding the Tour since 2008, and only his third appearance in the Grand Boucle. He has however taken part in 6 Grand Tours to date. His best finish in a stage of the Tour came in 2007 when on the stage to Montpellier from Marseille he came third behind Robbie Hunter and Fabian Cancellera. He will have a chance to relive that stage on 4th July.

Jérémy Roy was the most aggressive rider of the 2011 Tour, getting into many breakaways and attacking from within them. In that Tour he attacked on the first stage and again on stage 4 winning his first combative prize for a stage. On the road to Lourdes, stage 13, he went on the attack again to be agonisingly caught  with only 2.5km to go by Thor Hushovd and David Moncoutié, be had however picked up enough points to pull on the polka dot jersey. He attacked again on the final stage and spent a total of 700km more than a fifth of the race in breakaways. In 2008 however, he went one better coming second of stage 18 to Montluçon as part of the two men surviving in the break, losing out to Sylvain Chavanel in the sprint.

Pierrick Fedrigo is another of this team that will have the red, white and blue sleeves to his jersey having won the national title in 2005. He has four stage wins of the Tour on his palmarès the most recent last year when he beat Christian Vande Velde on the run into Pau on stage 15, one of the five won by the French last year (their best haul for some years). This will be his 10th Grande Boucle

Arthur Vichot shocked Sylvain Chavanel (OPQ) with a late attack in the last 2km of the  French National Road Race Championships of Sunday to keep the national colours within the team. His is another of the young talents in this team being just 24, but this will be his 4th Grand Tour. He is the nephew of a double stage winner of the Tour Fréderic Vichot. Last year he took the fifth stage of the Critérium du Dauphiné after a solo effort took him away from the remains of the six man breakaway before he struck in the last 6km. In the Tour du Haut Var earlier this season, a two day race in Provence, he won the GC, points and Young Rider classifications.

At Alexandre Geniez would normally expect to be one of the youngest riders on a team, but there are of course three younger than him in this nine. He arrived this season after three years on the Shimano team. In 2011 he was 2nd in the Tour of Luxembourg his best result to date. This season he was challenging Garmin's Dennis Rohan for best young rider in the Critérium du Dauphiné, he finished 12th overall to lose out to Rohan for that jersey. This will be his home Tour debut having previously taken part in the last two season's Vueltas. In 2011 he recorded a 3rd place finish in an intermediate mountain stage from Solares to Noja.

William Bonnet is another sprinter who will be helping to position Bouhanni on those flat stages. This is his 5th participation in the Tour. In the 2009 Vuelta he came second on back to back stages 15 and 16, losing to Andre Greipel in the first, beating him the following day but finding Anthony Roux was ahead of him. His best finish in a Tour stage was 5th in 2011 on the sprint to Châteauroux, coming in behind the who's who of sprinters Cavendish, Patacchi, Greipel and Feillu. One of his biggest wins to date would be the win on stage two of the 2010 Paris-Nice.

Arnold Jeannesson wore the white jersey for best young rider for two days in the 2011 Tour, he ended up in 14th place on GC and 4th in the young rider classification (3rd best young French rider). He did not ride last year's Tour depite having been 6th in the GC of Paris-Nice in the run up to it, but instead rode the Vuelta and started this year's Giro. He had been showing form in the Giro including a 5th place on the tough finish to stage 4 before he was one of those riders who succumbed to the cold conditions.

There is a lot of young and proving talent on this team with some older heads to help nurture that. Bouhanni has been getting close on those sprints against the big names so might well steal a stage or two from under the noses of Cavendish and Greipel. Pinot and Jeannesson are some of the brighter lights in the young French riders who could push for high finishes in the GC but there are others who are very capable of taking stages. FDJ are certainly looking to challenge in all areas, not for over all leads but certainly on almost every type of stage.

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