We were hoping for a stage victory in the Alps and we got it with Thibaut Pinot at L’Alpe d’Huez. As a team FDJ has had a very complicated Tour de France, especially in the first week. We could have fallen away but we walked with our heads held high. Pinot and the whole team mentally improved during those three weeks. I told them on Sunday evening at our dinner: we were dead and buried, for the believers we received the last rites, but in cycling, as long as someone has a number on their back, he’s not finished yet.
I was not at L’Alpe d’Huez when Thibaut won. Our performance director Frédéric Grappe and I had stopped in the valley to feed the riders as our two team cars in the convoy were very busy with what was happening in the race. We had Alexandre Geniez at the front and Pinot not far behind. We felt something great could come out of this stage so we parked our car on the road side at Le Bourg d’Oisans to watch TV and listen to Radio Tour at the same time.
The gendarmes who were supposed to monitor the traffic came close to our car to follow the race with us. Occasionally, they had a look at the road to check if everything was fine but as Pinot was climbing to L’Alpe d’Huez, fans gathered around our car and became crazy. I don’t know how many there were, 50, 100… people were shouting, full of joy, the gendarmes were happy too! Grappe and I had no strength left after Thibaut won. We were relieved but exhausted.
Eventually we drove to Paris. We didn’t go by helicopter to eat at La Tour d’Argent like our friend Oleg Tinkov. Like most of the people from the cycling community, we had steak-frites on the highway and we slept in a Campanile where hospitality was great. Better than if we had motor-homes. My staff and I still enjoy the Tour de France without living in a bling bling haven…
Considering the course and the champions in contention, it could have been an exceptional and historical Tour de France. The teaser was great but at the end of the day, it’s been a good Tour, not a special one because the overall classification has been decided too early, even before the first mountain.
After the team time trial, the hierarchy was clear. Just looking back at the result at Mur de Huy on stage 3, Chris Froome was above his rivals, Nairo Quintana and Vincenzo Nibali, while Alberto Contador was a little bit behind them after racing the Giro d’Italia. Therefore, we’ve had another race every day for the stage win and that made a pretty good race but not the kind of event that will leave a big mark in the history.
Now it’s time for the transfer window but I can’t afford to recruit riders at a big salary. Some of my colleagues dream of making business with buying and selling riders like clubs do in football but I’m definitely not interested in that kind of business. I have a much bigger passion for developing riders and living the adventure together with them on a long term basis. Rich people like Andy Rihs and Tinkov spend their personal money in hiring expensive cyclists, and it’s their choice and I respect it. I don’t have that kind of money to throw away and I contribute to my sport in a different way.
Since 2004, with a group of friends, we sponsor and organize a series for U17 riders called “Madiot Trophy”. On Bastille Day, we had the fourth leg in my village, Renazé, with 154 starters. The name of winner, Brendon Moreau, was announced on France Televisions during the live coverage of the Tour de France to the 5.3 million viewers that day. This coming Sunday we have the fifth leg at Saint-Martin-de-Landelles, the village of former Tour de France speaker Daniel Mangeas. I got to know some my pro riders through these series: Arnaud Démare, Arnaud Courteille, Kenny Elissonde, Pierre-Henri Lecuisinier, Lorrenzo Manzin… We’ve provided bikes for them, we’ve invited them to our training camps when they were teenagers, and we’ve financially supported their studies. Tony Gallopin, Anthony Delaplace, Florian Sénéchal or Bryan Coquard who performed at this year’s Tour de France with teams other than FDJ have also been noticed at the Madiot Trophy when they were 15 or 16.
I believe in keeping the passion for cycling alive more than in the short-term business of selling and buying pro bike riders that we hear about during the Tour de France.