Priority is to recruit foreign rider
In spite of the stirring displays of Thomas Voeckler and Pierre Rolland at the Tour de France, Europcar manager Jean-René Bernaudeau has been looking for an additional leader for his team in 2012.
“We want to find a leader,” Bernaudeau told L’Équipe. “Not in the sense of a charismatic leader like Thomas Voeckler, but still, a rider who is capable of moving the team on, finishing off the work and winning the races in which we want to figure in the future.”
Earlier in the summer, Bernaudeau spoke publicly of his desire to sign world champion Thor Hushovd and to bring Sylvain Chavanel back to the set-up where he began his career. Hushovd was snapped up by BMC, however, while Chavanel has opted to continue with Quick Step.
“We really wanted to be able to attract Hushovd to our team,” Bernaudeau admitted. “He’s a very experienced rider, who would have been capable of bringing a new dimension to Team Europcar and allowing us to shine a little more in the classics like Paris-Roubaix or even the Tour of Flanders.
“Hushovd joined BMC and Chavanel extended. They made their choice and we can’t do anything about that. We also have a certain budget and we can’t just recruit at any price. Our aim is to find riders who are capable of integrating into the team.”
Registered as a Pro Continental squad in 2011, Bernaudeau feels that Europcar is worth a slot in the WorldTour for next season, but he pointed out that being part of cycling’s elite division wasn’t his sole aim.
“The WorldTour isn’t an end in itself, it’s simply the consequence of results,” Bernaudeau said. “I’m not necessarily interested in looking for riders with points to validate our candidature. We’ve had a very fine 2011 season, I don’t see why we would go and turn the team upside down after that!”
With RadioShack and Leopard Trek set to merge and HTC-Highroad disbanding at the end of the season, a number of top-level foreign riders will be searching for a team in the coming weeks, and Bernaudeau is keeping abreast of the situation.
“We’re going to keep an eye on that,” Bernaudeau said. “One thing that is certain for now is that, even without knowing who exactly, our priority is to recruit a foreigner.”
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