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Direct Energie apply to join WorldTour for 2019 season

Dan Alexander
2 Aug 2018

The French team have been pro continental since losing their licence in 2015

Direct Energie will apply for a return to the WorldTour in 2019 for the first time under their current sponsors. Long time manager Jean-René Bernadeau believes the team’s willingness to animate the race at the Tour de France and 63 victories since 2016 show that they have earnt their seat at the top table.

Originally named System U in the 1980s, the team have been under the guidance of former professional rider Bernadeau since 1995.

Sponsor withdrawals and new investment saw the name change from Bonjour to Brioches La Boulangère in 2003, at a time when the team was thriving with promising youngsters.

Thomas Voeckler and Sylvain Chavanel became the team’s star riders with Voeckler wearing the yellow jersey for 10 days at the 2004 Tour de France in a year he also became national champion.

Multiple sponsor changes preceded the beginning of the most successful spell in their 30 year history. Named after car hire company Europcar and sporting the synonymous green kit, the team excelled at the Tour de France.

In 2011, Voeckler once again wore yellow for 10 days as Pierre Rolland won the Alpe d’Huez stage en route to earning the white jersey as the Tour’s best young rider.

The following year Voeckler won Stage 10 as Rolland’s win the next day was overshadowed by the Team Sky power struggle, with Chris Froome attacking teammate and yellow jersey holder Bradley Wiggins further down the mountain.

It signalled consecutive stage wins for Europcar with Voeckler adding a third in the final week, winning solo in Bangères De Luchon while wearing the polka dot mountains jersey, a scene repeated by Julian Alaphilippe at this year’s race.

Like Alaphilippe, Voeckler held onto the jersey and stood on the podium in Paris.

Off the back of this success Europcar joined the WorldTour for a solitary season in 2014. When Europcar stepped away at the end of the 2015 season, Bernadeau was faced with a struggle to find new investment.

Late in the day Direct Energie stepped up and the team continued at ProContinental level.

Almost three years on Bernadeau believes they are ready for a return to the WorldTour having proved their ability at the big races.

Lilian Calmejane has won stages at both the Tour and Vuelta a Espana in the colours of Direct Energie while the team took two stages at Paris-Nice earlier this year through Jerome Cousin and Jonathan Hivert.

Bernadeau believes 'Direct Energie led the Tour and stood out for its audacity and fighting spirit' and expressed the team’s desire for more opportunities at the biggest races.

Entry to the WorldTour would guarantee a Direct Energie squad at all three Grand Tours and major one day races.

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