By Bjorn Haake in Paris
The French Cofidis team used the marvellous Théâtre Merveilleux in Paris for its 2009 presentation on Thursday. The elaborate event in the old theater in Bercy was a far cry from the low-key event in the previous year. Most riders were present this time and followed the entertaining presentation that mixed speeches with short, entertaining video clips. Well known Tour de France announcer Daniel Mangeas led the 90-minute long official part of the programme.
The French ProTour team lost a few of its major players, such as Sylvain Chavanel (Quick Step), Nick Nuyens (Rabobank) or Maxime Monfort (Team Columbia), who had contributed to a very successful 2008 campaign. Team Manager Eric Boyer realised the difficulty of repeating such a successful year. "If I could sign to have the same successes as last year, I'd do it immediately."
Boyer added that the team already brought in the first win of the season. "Jean Eudes Demaret won a cyclo-cross race last Sunday." Mangeas was quick to point out that it was fitting Demaret won the first race for the team (the French word demarrer means 'to start').
A review of the 2008 season highlighted the team's performance in the Tour de France, which was a success with two stage wins (Samuel Dumoulin, Sylvain Chavanel) and a 15th place overall by Amaël Moinard.
Riders such as David Moncoutié dream of La Grande Boucle. "The Tour de France is certainly an important objective for me," Moncoutié said. He doesn't rule out challenging for the maillot blanc à pois rouge of best climber. "But I tackle the coming season with the goal of simply winning races," said Moncoutié about the year that could be his last as a professional. Winning the climber's jersey at last year's Vuelta a España has visibly given confidence to the Frenchman.
ProTour after all
The fact that the team can quietly plan on riding in the Tour de France stems from a change of mind. In July 2008 Cofidis decided it was not going to renew its ProTour license. But after further discussions between the sponsor and the team, Cofidis decided to extend the license in September. Team Manager Eric Boyer was a key figure in the negotiations with the sponsor. "We got together and looked at the advantages and disadvantages of each approach and eventually decided to renew the ProTour license."
The team is a mix of road racers and track riders, like it has been in the past. There will be 24 roadies and four pistards. Multiple track World Champion Arnaud Tournant retired, but stays with the team as the track coach. "I will have a different role, but it is still in cycling, still with Cofidis. I am proud of this."
Eric Boyer has full confidence in the other directeurs sportifs for the road (Francis van Londersele, Alain Deloeuil and Bernard Quilfen). "All of them have at least ten years of experience. This is very important," Boyer said.
Thierry Vittu, the president of Cofidis competition, announced a new name for the team, based on evolving market in the credit business. "We will be known as 'Cofidis - le Crédit en Ligne'." The ever-growing internet triggered the change from its previous 'Cofidis - le Crédit par Téléphone'. Vittu had no regrets about supporting cycling, which the company has done since 1997. "Before, Cofidis was not very well known, but now we are represented in many countries." Vittu was very satisfied with the last year of racing. "It may have been the best year ever for Cofidis."
Boyer thanked Cofidis for the ongoing support in return. "We had a difficult 2007 [Moreni's doping case and the team's withdrawal from the Tour - ed.] but the sponsor trusted us and stayed with us. Thank you very much!"
Five riders joined the road race faction: sprinter Alexandre Usov (AG2R La Mondiale), Christophe Kern and Rémi Pauriol (Crédit Agricole) and Nico Sijmens (Landbouwkrediet - Tönissteiner). The fifth rider, Guillaume Blot, moves up from the French amateur ranks.
After the official part of the event riders and media gathered in the hallway of the theatre, where anyone could try out the games. After the nicely presented snacks were taken care of, the riders packed up and headed down to Southern France, where the second training camp will start soon. For some, it is already time to think about racing, too. Moncoutié will once again head Down Under. "I like starting the season there, it allows me to get some good training kilometres."
For a photo gallery of the event, click here.