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Groupama-FDJ: 'We have everything we need to challenge the best teams'

Maria David
20 Jan 2020

General manager Marc Madiot confident of success for 2020 at Groupama-FDJ team presentation

An enthusiastic Marc Madiot set out the ambitious plans for Groupama-FDJ at the recent unveiling of the 2020 team. Enthusiasm and passion were the order of the day, particularly as it was announced that the title sponsors Groupama and FDJ had confirmed the renewal of their sponsorship up to 2024.

'As one of the biggest teams in the world in terms of our racing results, organisation and innovation we have all the means to seek success in 2020,' Madiot explained. 'Everything is aligned for us to go after big results in the biggest races in the world, including the Tour de France.'

Speaking in Paris, at the plush surroundings of the Groupama headquarters, Madiot described how 2019 had been the turning point for the team – specifically at the press conference on the rest day at Albi during the 2019 Tour de France. Commentators had written off Thibaut Pinot’s chances in the Tour, but Madiot galvanised the team and the riders then worked together to secure an emphatic victory for Pinot on the Col du Tourmalet.

'We got our foot in the door last year and we will push it wide open,' said Madiot. 'The big teams must know that we will be at the front of the peloton making things happen, rather than reacting to what is happening. We have everything we need to challenge the best teams.'

While Madiot was keen to impress on the audience the team’s intentions to achieve results through more analysis and detail in their application, he still wanted to stress his wish for riders that are human and who 'sweat emotion' in their efforts.

Bouncing back from 2019's heatbreak

Of course, the presentation did not go without mention of Pinot’s dramatic and heart-breaking exit from the 2019 Tour de France, just two days from the end of the race, while at 1 minute 50 seconds from the then race leader Julian Alaphilippe, and 20 seconds from the eventual winner, Egan Bernal.

Pinot himself has not been able to explain the origin of the thigh injury, but maintains that he has been in good shape since resuming road cycling in November, and he had good legs during his December training camp in Calpe, Spain.

'I don’t know what the injury was. I had been really looking forward to the stages in the Alps. The team were on a cloud and I felt really good,' Pinot explained. 'The injury just seemed to come and go just like that, and I don’t know what the cause was. It was just so frustrating to have this happen to me two days before reaching Paris.'

During his enforced break Pinot wouldn’t even look at his road bike, choosing to focus on other outdoor activities in the countryside around his home – tending to his numerous animals and doing a bit of mountain biking.

Naturally, for 2020 Pinot has unfinished business with the Tour de France, and is determined to give it his best shot, particularly as it is practically 10 years to the day since the Frenchman made his professional debut with the team. He will be 30 when he lines up to start the Grande Boucle on 27th June.

Pinot also feels he has come of age and grown in confidence as a team leader, and is ready to take on new challenges. Paradoxically, the disappointment of the Tour de France, as well as the Giro d’Italia in 2018 has made him less fearful about putting himself forward in new situations.

Taking a different route to the Tour

One of those will be to compete in Paris-Nice in March – a race which he has never previously done, having favoured Tirreno-Adriatico in recent years.

'As a Frenchman I wanted to do Paris-Nice. It seems strange to have not done it all these years. I know that it will be a risk as the terrain does not necessarily suit me, but I am ready to take it on.'

At the time of the team launch, Pinot was preparing to fly out to Tenerife for an arduous 17-day block of climbing-specific training, something that he feels will be beneficial for his upcoming races provided he takes adequate rest in between his sessions.

Pinot feels very confident about the coming season, and is aiming to achieve podium places in the Olympic Games, the World Championships and of course the Tour de France.

For him, the 2020 Tour route, which is notably geared towards climbers, will be up his street and the rider from near the Vosges will exploit that opportunity, probably helped by David Gaudu and Swiss Road Race champion Sebastien Reichenbach.

'In 2019 I realised that I could raise the bar and mix it with the contenders for the overall win at the Tour. Then I went through that terrible disappointment. The support I received from my team and the sponsors during the difficult moment in my career in 2019 was essential to my recovery.

'I will return to the 2020 Tour with big ambitions and I want to achieve results that match the commitment they have given to me.'

Of particular interest for Pinot will be the penultimate stage, the time trial on La Planche des Belles Filles, just a few miles from his home village of Mélisey.

Other hopes for the team come in the shape of sprinter Arnaud Démare, who is hoping to repeat success at the Giro d’Italia and win a stage at the Vuelta a Espana, thus joining a select group of riders to have won a stage at all three Grand Tours.

In addition, relative newcomer Stefan Küng will be building on his victory at the Tour de Romandie and a bronze medal at the World Road Race Championships in Yorkshire.

As for Madiot, he believes French cyclists are now beginning to see blue skies, and his team’s biggest victories are yet to come.
'We have started building the house; we now have everything to build the upper floors.'