Young French climber Brice Feillu has revealed that he will be racing for the new Luxembourg team built around the Schleck brothers next year. The 2009 Tour de France stage winner had already announced that he would be leaving his Vacansoleil team at the end of the season and he has now confirmed the rumours linking him to the new outfit managed by Kim Andersen.
"I gave them my word, even if I haven't signed yet, and they gave me theirs, " Feillu told La Nouvelle République. The 25-year-old expects to ink his two-year contract "in about ten days".
According to Feillu, the move was initiated by the Schleck brothers themselves, who contacted him in May. The Frenchman has had a frustrating season with his Dutch Vacansoleil team, which wasn't invited to any of the Grand Tours this year.
"I didn't feel at ease in the team," Feillu explained. "The disappointment of not doing the Tour was enormous - I was really hit by that for a while. And then, I never had really good legs this season. When I joined the team, I was considered as one of the leaders, but because I didn't live up to their expectations, the roles were reversed. In some races, I even didn't have fun anymore."
He also said that the team's non-selection in the key events and his own poor performances added up. "If I had been in good form, I might have been able to show myself more in races, but then again, in July, when I normally peak, we didn't race much at all. And training rides can never replace racing kilometres. Vacansoleil really missed out on all the great events this season, so it wasn't easy to show myself."
Now, Feillu is happy and motivated to join the new team. "They [the Schleck brothers - ed.] are really nice guys, and I think it will be the perfect team for me to lighten up. A team where I will be able to feel well-integrated in the long term. I'm going there for a new start," he announced.
But his departure from Vacansoleil also has its downsides, as he will no longer be one of the team leaders and so far the only Frenchman on the squad. "But that doesn't bother me at all," he said. "To work hard and to sacrifice myself for guys like Andy or Fränk Schleck will be a real pleasure. That's what a team is about! You get as much joy and goosebumps when your teammate wins as when you win yourself...
"If I do a good job, then maybe I can play my own cards every now and again. There will always be possibilities. We will be invited to the Grand Tours, and if I can ride two of them, it would be fantastic."
But as was the case this year, the long and lean climber's appearance at the Tour de France is not guaranteed. "I'm not certain of riding the Tour. The team will include some very good riders, and I will cross my fingers to be amongst those who will be selected, but I don't take it for granted. I will have to earn my spot on the road," he said.