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Stage winner Brice Feillu (Agritubel) made France proud.
If not the Tour, then "perhaps the Giro" for the 2009 Tour stage winner
Brice Feillu, the younger of the Feillu brothers, has just completed his first training camp with his new team Vacansoleil in Benidorm, Spain. The young climber was happy to have met all of his new teammates and has indicated his early season goals, while hoping that his new team will be invited to the sport's biggest races.
"I'm flying back to Nice today, and just said goodbye to all of my teammates," Feillu told Cyclingnews on Friday morning. "It was just a short week but it was nice. We all got along really well."
After an administrative, three-day meet, the team began a more training-specific camp, working out on the bike as well as doing some swimming. Racing programmes were established and plans plotted for the coming season.
"I'll start with the GP La Marseillaise, and then I'll do the Tour Méditerranéen before the Ruta del Sol. After that, we'll see. It depends on the wildcards our team gets - if we do Paris-Nice or not. We hope we do!"
Being a Pro Continental team, Vacansoleil, isn’t guaranteed an invite to the "race to the sun", organised by Tour de France owner ASO. However, if the team - and notably the Feillu brothers - score good results early in the season, chances are the Dutch team will be at the start of the French stage race.
"I think it's possible. We have to be good right from the start of the season, and I think we have the team to do that. Especially the French races: La Marseillaise, Bessèges, Tour Méd. We have to shine in these events to prove to ASO that we deserve to have our place in Paris-Nice, and later in the Tour de France."
On the subject of the Tour de France, Feillu knows that it will not be easy for Vacansoleil to be granted an entry, with several high-profile squads also relying on a wildcard. "Certainly, with Cadel Evans signing for BMC, it has become even harder for us," he said. "Before that, BMC wasn't really a candidate for the Tour, but now, they have a great chance."
Feillu owes his recent fame to a Tour de France stage win this summer, which gave him further motivation and higher goals for the coming year - as well as a new team, in which he enjoys a leadership status he did not have before. He explained that his and his brother's choice to sign with Vacansoleil was also due to this.
"We'll do well in this team," he said. "The sports directors trust us, and we can race all the races we want. If we show that we're competitive, we are the ones to choose our races, and that feels good. In a ProTour team, even if I already won a stage at the Tour, you always have to fight for your position, whereas in this team, we enjoy a certain leadership already.
"At Agritubel, it wasn't easy for me to get selected for the Tour de France. In fact, I only knew one week before the race that I was going to do it. So I didn't come to the Tour well-prepared mentally at all. At Vacansoleil, I will be a team leader for mountainous stage races, so this gives me a peace of mind."
Feillu did not deny that it would be a setback if the squad wasn't to participate. Still, "the Tour is not the only race. I know that Vacansoleil has applied for a wildcard with the Giro d'Italia organisers. Maybe we'll get selected. If we do, I would like to do the Giro. There is also the Dauphiné Libéré. We'll see."