Betancur debut delayed due to illness
AG2R-La Mondiale have named eight of the nine riders that will represent them at this year's Tour de France.
The team confirmed that Romain Bardet, Jean-Christophe Péraud and Christophe Riblon will head up the team. The trio have consistently been the team's and France's best performers at the Tour de France in recent years.
Bardet finished 15th in last year’s Tour and was France's top general classification rider. Péraud had been on for that title, sitting in ninth when he crashed out during the second time trial on stage 17. Riblon was the only Frenchman to win a stage in last year's race, taking victory ahead of Tejay van Garderen (BMC) atop the Alpe d'Huez.
Carlos Betancur was not one of the riders in the list. He was supposed to be riding the Tour de Suisse this week, but failed to turn up in Lyon – where the team had arranged to meet him. Colombian national coach Franco Gini later confirmed that Betancur was unable to travel due to illness and wouldn't be able to ride the Tour.
Betancur is currently in Colombia and should return to Europe in the coming weeks. AG2R team manager Vincent Lavenu told L'Équipe that he will sanction Betancur, however it will not come in the form of a fine. "I have asked him to return to Savoy, where he must renew his residence permit from the Prefecture, around July 15, said Lavenu. "There will of course be a sanction, but it will not be financial as labour law prohibits it. A procedure is in place, it may be a reprimand, a warning, or a layoff. We don't want to separate from him, but we would like him to respect his race program."
Samuel Dumoulin, Blel Kadri and Sébastian Minard will be returning to the Tour de France. All three rode in the race last season. Dumoulin will be hoping to take victories in the sprints, while Minard Roma Maxima champion Kadri will be tasked with getting into the breaks.
Luxembourger Ben Gastauer is the only non-Frenchman named in the list and will be making his debut at the Tour de France. The Former national time trial champion has ridden the Giro d’Italia and the Vuelta a España, but this is the first time he has been called up to race at the Grand Boucle. Mikael Cherel is the final rider to be named, he last rode the Tour in 2012.
The final spot in the team will be decided after the French National Championships on June 29. The Tour de France begins in Leeds on July 5.
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