Cofidis have confirmed their 28-rider roster for 2019, with sprinters Nacer Bouhanni and Christophe Laporte set to the lead the French squad as it tries to step up from Professional Continental to WorldTour level in 2020.
New signings include Darwin Atapuma (from UAE Team Emirates), Natnael Berhane (Dimension Data), 2018 Red Hook criterium series winner Filippo Fortin (Team Felbermayr-Simplon Wels), Jesper Hansen (Astana), Pierre-Luc Perichon (Fortuneo-Samsic) and Zico Waeytens (Veranda’s Willems-Crelan), as the team tries to widen its options and score vital ranking points in the hope of securing one of the 18 spots in the 2020 WorldTour.
Daniel Navarro has moved to Katusha-Alpecin, Anthony Turgis to Direct Energie, while Daniel Teklehaimanot has been let go after less than a season with the team.
Cedric Vasseur took over as team manager last November and has worked hard to shake-up the team after several years of decline. Cofidis finished second behind Wanty Groupe-Gobert in the UCI Europe Tour ranking this year, with Hugo Hofstetter topping the individual ranking. Cofidis won 21 races in 2018, with 10 different riders, taking a total of 54 podium spots. Jesús Herrada wore the leader’s red jersey at the Vuelta a Espana for two days and Luis Ángel Mate defended the blue polka-dot mountains jersey for close to two weeks. Both are part of the 2019 roster, as are Nicolas Edet, Geoffrey Soupe, Stéphane Rossetto and Cyril Lemoine.
Bouhanni was forced to share sprint leadership with Laporte, leading to tension within the team and Bouhanni missing the Tour de France. He seemed ready to break his contract but won a stage at the Vuelta a Espana and is already preparing for the 2019 season. Laporte won six races in the first five months of the 2018 season and was fourth at Gent-Wevelgem and second on stage 18 of the Tour de France in Pau. He inked a new contract with Cofidis until 2021, while Bouhanni’s contract ends in 2019.
"What I've tried to do this year is increase the level of the team and I've kept Laporte, who was out of contract. That was the first deal of the year. We've signed him for the next three years and then we've also built in different ways," Vasseur told Cyclingnews in an end of season interview.
"If we want to be a WorldTour team we have to act like we're one already, even if we're not one. We'll have 28 riders like most WorldTour teams and I think 2019 is going to be a transitional year for us. We have signed riders from the WorldTour, and with WorldTour experience. Everything I'm trying to build is with that WorldTour focus.
“We managed to create a new dynamic in the team based on the culture of winning and the performances followed that in the Coupe de France and in the Europe Tour and even in World Tour races such as Paris-Nice, Critérium du Dauphiné and even during the Tour de France and the Vuelta. With the new arrivals to the tram and the lessons we’ve learnt, I’m convinced we’ll have an even stronger team in 2019 that is eager to ride the wave of success."
Vasseur hopes that taking the pressure of Bouhanni can help him perform better in the sprints that suit him. Both Laporte and Bouhanni will have stronger leads outs in 2019.
"In playing different cards, like Atapuma in the mountains, Laporte in other races, it will be something exciting for Nacer. He likes boxing, of course, and he likes to fight. I want him to fight for the win all the time. I think 2019 will be an easier year,” Vasseur said.