The FDJ.fr team has enjoyed one of its best seasons in 2013 thanks to the double-digit success of sprinters Arnaud Demare and Nacer Bouhanni, with team manager Marc Madiot confident things can only get better in 2014 as both sprinters mature and improve.
The French squad has won a total of 33 races this season, with only Team Sky (35), Cannondale (36) and Omega Pharma-Quick Step (53) doing better.
Bouhanni has won 11 races so far this season and could take another on the final day of the Tour of Beijing on Tuesday, while Demare ended his season with ten victories and third place in Sunday's Paris-Tours behind John Degenkolb (Argos-Shimano).
Demare was 22 in August, while Bouhanni turned 23 on July 25. Like Argos-Shimano does with Degenkolb and Marcel Kittel, the FDJ.fr team management carefully alternates the objectives between Bouhanni and Demare.
"They're not similar. Nacer is always up for a sprint, while Arnaud is more of a guy suited to setting objectives and goals," Madiot said to L'Equipe after seeing Demare in action at Paris-Tours.
Bouhanni is more of a pure sprinter who has the speed and instinct to win. He proved that at the Tour of Beijing by coming from behind in the final hundred metres of the sprint. When a gap opened along the barriers he did not hesitate and accelerated to his second victory.
Demare showed he is more than just a sprinter by going with the attacks in the finale of Paris-Tours.
"I went because Paris-Tours doesn't always end in sprint. I don’t think it cost me very much. I felt stronger and still fresh in the sprint," he said.
Madiot confirmed that Demare will test his sprinting and Classics skills much more in 2014. "Next year he'll target all the Flemish classics and I think he can win one," the former two-time Paris-Roubaix winner said.
However Demare agreed but does not want to loose his sprinting speed. "You need lots of power to win these races but as I get older it should come," Demare said. "But top end speed is still my specialty. I always keep the sprint as a priority."
The Tour de France dilemma
Madiot's only dilemma could be deciding who is the team's protected sprinter for the Tour de France. He also has to help team leader Thibaut Pinot as he targets the general classification.
"Perhaps they'll both ride," Madiot said when provoked by Equipe. "With Pinot too. There are nine places in the Tour team…"