By Hedwig Kröner
The French team Française Des Jeux, directed by Marc Madiot, is looking towards the new season in confidence. The squad has not changed much over the winter months, as was revealed at the cycling team presentation on Tuesday, January 30.
Indeed, Madiot let only four of his 2006 riders go (Eric Leblacher, Bernhard Eisel, Freddy Bichot and Gustav-Erik Larsson), and welcomed five new assets to the team (Sébastien Chavanel, Thierry Marichal, Mickaël Chérel, Timothy Gudsell and Johan Lindgren). The outfit now counts 29 professional cyclists, of which 13 are under 25 years-old, and 17 have been faithful to the squad since the beginnings of their career.
Madiot hopes to see his riders pursue their good results of last season this year, which already begun successfully as Francis Mourey won the French Cyclo-Cross Championships, and teammate Frédéric Guesdon the second edition of the Tropicale Amissa Bongo in Gabon. "We were good in 2006, except at the Tour de France...," said the team manager to news agency AFP. "This year, we will have great ambitions at the Belgian Classics and we'll try to do better at the Tour."
The man to watch out for on those damp Belgian spring days will of course be one-day Classics specialist Philippe Gilbert, of whom Madiot thinks that he has "the potential to win a lot of great races." As for the Grand Tours, La Française Des Jeux counts on Sandy Casar, already sixth at the Giro d'Italia last year, as well as Australian Bradley McGee, who needs to find his winning ways again after a low 2006. Casar has high expectations for this year's Tour de France; "The last years, I aimed for a placing between 10th and 20th. This year, I'll try for 5th to 10th," he said.
Casar will also lead the team at the Tour de Langkawi in Malaysia, which begins this Friday - his 28th birthday. "I know that these 1300 racing kilometres in Malaysia will do me good," he told Velomania. "At Paris-Nice I want to be as strong as in 2002." That year, Casar finished overall second at the 'race towards the sun.'
But Madiot also expects his young guns to improve this season; amongst others Sébastien Chavanel, Rémy Di Gregorio, Thomas Lövkvist or Benoît Vaugrenard, who wore the white jersey of best young rider at the Tour de France last year.
The full Française des Jeux roster for 2007 lists as follows: Ludovic Auger (Fra), Sandy Casar (Fra), Sébastien Chavanel (Fra, from Bouygues Telecom), Mickaël Chérel (Fra, Elite 2), Carlos Da Cruz (Fra), Mickaël Delage (Fra), Christophe Detilloux (Bel), Rémy Di Gregorio (Fra), Arnaud Gérard (Fra), Philippe Gilbert (Bel), Timothy Gudsell (NZl, Elite 2), Frédéric Guesdon (Fra), Lilian Jégou (Fra), Sébastien Joly (Fra), Matthieu Ladagnous (Fra), Johan Lindgren (Swe, Elite 2), Thomas Lövkvist (Swe), Thierry Marichal (Bel, Cofidis), Bradley McGee (Aus), Ian McLeod (RSA), Christophe Mengin (Fra), Cyrille Monnerais (Fra), Francis Mourey (Fra), Fabien Patanchon (Fra), Jérémy Roy (Fra), Benoît Vaugrenard (Fra) and Jussi Veikkanen (Fin).
See the Cyclingnews' teams database for more information on Française Des Jeux.