Coquard moves a step closer to Pineau team

Vital Concept expected to sponsor new Pro Continental team built around French sprinter

Bryan Coquard has signed a contract with Jerome Pineau's new Professional Continental team according to reports in the French press, as the news of Warren Barguil moving to Fortuneo-Oscaro sparks a series of changes to French cycling for 2018.  

Coquard has already confirmed that he will depart the Direct Energie team at the end of the season. The French sprinter has been linked several times to Pineau's nascent team but a move to Quick-Step Floors or Lotto Soudal was also mooted. Quick-Step manager Patrick Lefevere told Cyclingnews he believes Coquard is likely to join Pineau's squad.

Ouest France reported on Wednesday that Coquard has penned a deal with Pineau's team, which is widely expected to have Vital Concept as a title sponsor. Coquard, a former track world champion, has enjoyed more than 30 victories in his career thus far, including wins at Etoile de Besseges, the Route du Sud and the Ruta del Sol. He will spearhead the squad, with a team built around him and his ambitions.

There are a number of other riders rumoured to be joining Coquard at the team, including Quick-Step Floors rider Matteo Trentin. FDJ's Kevin Reza has also been linked with a move to the squad.

Coquard is a Brittany native and with the team heavily linked to his home region, and run by a friend, it seems like a strong fit for the 25-year-old. It will be a sideways step for Coquard, with the team initially racing at Professional Continental level. However, Pineau has stated his intentions to reach WorldTour level within three years. With Coquard as team leader, the team should have few problems securing a wild card place at the Tour de France and other leading races. 

Coquard revealed in May that he would not renew his contract with Jean-Rene Bernaudeau's Direct Energie squad after turning professional with them in 2013, following his Olympic silver medal at London 2012. He said at the time that he was looking for 'fresh impetus' for his career. Since the announcement, there have been tension between Coquard and team manager Bernaudeau. Coquard was controversially left out of their Tour de France line-up, despite being one of their most successful riders after Lilian Calmejane.

Coquard is due to lead the French national team at the European Championships this weekend. An official announcement regarding his switch to the team is likely to come on August 17 when Pineau's new team is unveiled in Loudéac in Brittany.

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