Sprinter Bryan Coquard has pleaded with Tour de France organisers to "give us a chance" when making their decisions on wild cards for this year's race. Coquard's Vital Concept squad faces a tense wait to find out if they have a birth in the Grand Tour as they rely on the mercy of organisers the ASO.
Coquard missed last year's Tour de France after he announced that he would be leaving Direct Energie at the end of the season. He joined former professional Jerome Pineau's new Vital Concept team as their star rider. The 25-year-old says that he is not worrying about whether or not his team will earn the much desired wild card spot, but says that the organisers might regret not handing them an invitation without giving them a chance.
"I'm not bothered with that. If the organizers of the Tour de France give invitations without giving us the time to prove ourselves, they could perhaps be kicking themselves," Coquard told AFP. "It would be nice if they wait a bit to see what we can do. I hope we will have time to express ourselves. I want to say to them, 'Give us a chance!'"
With all 18 WorldTour teams gaining an immediate place at the Tour de France only four places remain for the vying Pro Continental squads. French sports daily L'Équipe reported last month that Vital Concept was in a battle with Belgian outfit Wanty Groupe-Gobert for the final wild card, with Cofidis, Direct Energy and Fortuneo-Oscaro looking the likely earners of the other places.
Coquard knows that he will start his year at the Sharjah Tour in Dubai between January 24-27, before returning to Europe for Etoile de Besseges. Much of Coquard's season, though, remains in the air at the moment as the team awaits other wild cards. Things should begin to fall into place as January progresses and the announcements are made but he has some big races on his wish list.
"I want to ride Milan-San Remo, I want to ride Paris-Nice, I want to ride the Amstel Gold Race and I want to ride the Tour de France with Vital Concept," he said. "The organizers of the races are reassured: when we take the start of an event, it will not be to make up the numbers, it will be to win."
A silver medallist in the Omnium at the 2012 Olympic Games in London, Coquard switched to the road with Europcar (now Direct Energie) for the 2013 season. He announced in May that he planned to leave the team after five seasons to seek new challenges. A number of teams were rumoured but, in the end, Coquard chose the team from his native Brittany. It is just over two weeks until he makes his first competitive appearance with the squad and he's raring to go.
"It's a new adventure that begins, a new challenge," said Coquard. "With the other guys on the team, we have already been together in the peloton. It is already gelling together. Everything is still to be built but the group is already welded together.
"Obviously, I do not have the benchmarks of my previous years, but I have confidence. I want to become a great sprinter. All lights are green to start the season. I am very, very motivated. It's been six months that I'm cooped up, I cannot wait to sprint. I want to win as many races as possible."