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Florian Vachon (Bretagne - Schuller)
Blévin believes in young team's wildcard chances
Bretagne-Schuller, the soon-to-be Pro Continental French team, is aiming at a Tour de France place in 2011. Manager Joël Blévin told Cyclingnews that although he hasn't yet sent an official request to ASO, his squad is a candidate for all the ASO's events next year, including Paris-Nice, Paris-Roubaix, the Ardennes Classics and the Critérium du Dauphiné.
"It's not just a dream and it won’t be a scandal if we don’t have a wild card next year, but we have got real assets like our sporting level, our ethics, our young image and our Breton identity," Blévin said.
The manager knows that the fight will be hard because ASO will probably offer four wildcards and all the five French teams registered as Pro Continental - Cofidis, Française des Jeux, Europcar, Saur-Sojasun and Bretagne-Schuller - will want to ride the Tour.
Despite a budget of between 50 and 300 percent less than their rivals, Bretagne-Schuller is confident of its wild card chances.
"Why not?" implored Blévin. "What has Europcar or Saur-Sojasun [the other team based in Brittany - ed.] got that we haven’t? They have one or two leaders like Thomas Voeckler than I can't recruit, but we need nine riders for a Tour de France roster..." Blévin recalled the team spirit that helped Bretagne-Schuller win the 2010 French Cup and the Boucles de l'Aulne-GP du Télégramme double.
Emmanuel Hubert, the team’s directeur sportif, explained that the 'baby brother' of the French peloton could add spice in the Tour de France. "The same happened with my former team [Agritubel - ed.]," he said.
"Nobody expected Brice Feillu as a stage winner in Andorre-Arcalis [at the 2009 Tour de France] and he did it. Bretagne-Schuller has got dedicated riders who can show themselves in the Tour."
The Breton brigade signed experienced riders as Sylvain Calzati (Team Sky) and Eric Berthou (Carmiooro), but is more focused on young local talents. They are developing 21-year-old Johan Le Bon for next season, 2008 junior European and world champion, puncheur 23-year-old Romain Hardy, 25-year-old Laurent Pichon, and 26-year-old Florian Vachon, who was second in the 2010 French Cup. "In two years they certainly will be the top French riders," Hubert said.
Bretagne-Schuller's application for the 2011 Tour stems from the fact that stages four, five and six will visit Brittany, the region where the team is based and supported by the regional council, the main sponsor; last time the Tour went through Brittany was for the Grand Départ in Brest, in 2008.
Before the Tour de France the squad hopes to ride ASO's other events. They rode the Critérium International and Paris-Tours this year but is aiming for a wild card to Paris-Nice, Paris-Roubaix, la Flèche Wallonne, Liège-Bastogne-Liège and the Critérium du Dauphiné. Management has also applied for the Bayern Rundfahrt and the Tour du Luxembourg. Two new races have already been added in the team's schedule: Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne, an interesting step to the "Hell of the North".