WorldTour Ranking: 14th (up from 16th in 2014)
Win Count: 16 (down from 28)
Top Riders: Thibaut Pinot (10th in the final WorldTour ranking), Alexandre Geniez (85th), Arnaud DéMare (97th)
One doesn’t have to look far for an expert analysis of the French WorldTour team’s 2015 season. FDJ team managaer Marc Madiot characterised the year as “average” in public statements earlier this month. But even that assessment may be generous.
FDJ’s win tally this season dropped from 28 in 2014 to 16, just more than half of what the team accomplished the year before. As Madiot pointed out, the team’s saving grace was the performance of Thibaut Pinot, who brought home high-profile stages wins at Tour de Romandie, Tour de Suisse and the Tour de France.
"The team misfired for a long time. It wasn't stoked up like it should have been," Madiot told Cyclingpro.net. "We lost the guiding principles that we had before. It seemed to me that some of the riders weren't hungry, that they'd had enough."
Just how much the team’s success depended on Pinot is revealed in the roster’s WorldTour rankings, where Pinot is 10th and the next closest rider, Alexandre Geniez, is ranked 85th. The only other FDJ rider in the top 100 is sprinter Arnaud Démare, whose miserly two wins this season lifted him to 97th.
Démare’s win tally dropped from 15 the year before, and his performance reflects the team’s general malaise. But Madiot said Démare’s power numbers were actually improved this year, and instead the manager blamed his sprinter’s attitude and, again, the team’s morale.
“Arnaud must learn to be harder with his teammates," Madiot said. "From the start of next season there has to be a new sense of spirit and a new dynamic."
The season was not without bright spots, of course. Pinot obviously shined for the team and continued to prove himself as one of the best climber’s in the peloton. Geniez’ win at Tro-Bro Leon was a nice early season result for the French team, which also gathered wins from Anthony Roux, Lorrenzo Manzin, Johan Le Bon, Marc Sarreau and Elie Gesbert.
If the team wants to escape the “average” label that Madiot has hung around their neck, however, they’ll need to spread the wins around a bit more and not depend on Pinot to grab all the headlines. Whether the team will have the roster or morale to do that is yet to be seen.
What to expect in 2016
Unless Madiot’s criticism is enough to spur the team into another level next year, it’s difficult to see FDJ improving its position in the current peloton. The team’s off-season acquisitions maintained the status quo for the most part, so it will be up to the same cast as in 2015 to deliver. Changes in support and training can add marginal gains, but the 2016 script so far at FDJ looks a lot like 2015’s. Can a change in attitude change the team’s fortunes in 2016?
Biggest loss going into 2016
The team’s biggest loss is really a toss up. FDJ hung on to most of its productive riders from 2015, choosing not to renew with just four riders: Francis Mourey, Anthony Geslin, David Boucher and Arnold Jeannesson, who signed for next season at the Pro Continental level with Cofidis.
Boucher, a 35-year-old Classics specialist, has no wins in his 13-year career. Of Mourey and Geslin, Mourey has the most recent win at the 2013 Tro-Bro Léon, add to that the extra publicity that comes with the Frenchman’s cyclo-cross exploits, and Mourey is arguably the biggest loss going into 2016.
Biggest signing for 2016
Picking up Sebastien Reichenbach was a good move for FDJ, although the competition for this category wasn’t exactly staggering. The team also brought in U23 Norwegians Daniel Hoelgaard and Odd Christian Eiking from the Joker Continental team. 29-year-old Lithuanian Ignatas Konovalovas joins from French Continental team Marseilles 13 KTM. FDJ will be 22-year-old Frenchman Jérémy Maison’s first UCI team.
Aside from Reichenbach, only Konovalovas has any pro wins. The Lithuanian won the overall at this year’s Four days of Dunkirk. He added that win to a stage at the 2009 Giro and a stage at the Luxembourg Tour in 2008.
Reichenbach, 26, has just one pro win, but his palmares are filled with more recent accomplishments, including third in a stage at this year’s Giro and third in a stage at the Tour of Poland. He also finished 13th overall at this year’s Tour de Suisse, 14th at Criterium du Dauphine and 15th at Tour de Romandie.
One to watch in 2016
Thibaut Pinot is obviously the rider to watch at FDJ next year. The 25-year-old’s five victories in 2015, including his winning performances against top competition in the Tour de Romandie, Tour de Suisse and Tour de France, are a glimpse of the promise that could lie ahead for the young Frenchman. He’ll be looking to improve on his fourth-place overall finishes at Romandie and Suisse next year, and a climb-heavy 2016 Tour de France route should have him salivating for July. His third place at the season-ending Tour of Lombardy should send him into the winter with plenty motivation.