French team AG2R La Mondiale has had a satisfying season with a total of 12 victories. Four of these alone were achieved by team leader Cyril Dessel, who will next year assume this role within the squad once again. The Frenchman, who wore the yellow jersey of the Tour de France in 2006 - finishing seventh on GC - was happy to have overcome his toxoplasmosis infection that had annulled his 2007 season.
After his first victory this year at the Four Days of Dunkirk, Dessel felt confident again. "This win was very important. It served as a trigger as it gave me my confidence back and liberated me," the 33-year-old told L'Equipe.
Stage wins at the Volta a Catalunya and the Dauphiné Libéré followed, topped off by his Tour de France stage victory in July. "This was my designated goal in the beginning of the season," Dessel continued. "This success crowned all the work that I had done during the winter and all the efforts I put into myself to return to a competitive level after my toxoplasmosis."
Naturally, after making up one third of the squad's victories this season, AG2R La Mondiale team manager Vincent Lavenu counts on Dessel to continue his good job next year. "I know that I have a leadership role within the team, even if this is not natural to me," the rather timid rider continued. "I try to give my experience to the younger riders, and to serve as an example on the bike and outside of competition, with regards to my diet and training. But during a race, I need to force myself to stay in front, to fight for my position."
For next year, Dessel hopes to confirm his victories at the Tour, as well as aiming for the national champion's jersey. "That's a race that I dream of adding to my palmarès," he said.
Great hopes on Roche
The French team will next year also be the groupe sportif of choice of Irishman Nicolas Roche, son of Tour de France winner Stephen. Roche has had a good 2008 season, taking two victories and showing his abilities in stage races such as the Vuelta a España, where he finished 13th overall. Dessel is looking forward to riding with him. "Nicolas Roche is a very good addition to the team," he added. "Together with Sébastien Hinault, they have true finisher's talents, which we lacked a little in the roster."
Team manager Lavenu confirmed that he recruited Roche for this reason. "Like Sébastien Hinault, Nicolas Roche is a winner," said Lavenu. "He has a rider profile that we missed a bit this season. He is just starting to blossom at the highest level, and a complete rider."