Dimitri Champion’s desperate chase of a contract for 2012 has highlighted the position of many riders as a consequence of the new UCI ProTeam application system that forced teams to chase points to earn a place in the first division of the sport.
Champion was French national champion in 2009 and joined the AG2r-La Mondiale team on the back of that success. However he has struggled since then and his 2011 season has been wrecked by a fractured vertebrae at the Paris-Camembert race in April. He now has few UCI ranking points and so is considered of little value to any team.
French newspaper L’Equipe explained his plight on Sunday, revealing that five of his teammates at Ag2r-La Mondiale could also be without a team for 2012 if team manager Vincent Lavenu opts to sign other riders who have more ranking points. The demise of HTC-Highroad and the merger of Omega Pharma and Quick Step team has released a flood of riders onto the market and meant that many riders are now racing the final part of the season in pursuit of points rather than riding loyally for their teams.
Champion went on the attack in the recent Paris-Correze race, knowing he desperately needs some success and points.
“I gave it a go because you never know. I needed it. It’s been a long time since I’ve raced like that,” he told L’Equipe. “I’m thinking about points now because I know my future could depend on them.”
L’Equipe claimed that the places of teammates Julien Loubet, Cyril Dessel, David Le Lay, Kristof Goddaert and Yuriy Krivtsov are also at risk for 2012. The French team is ranked a lowly sixteenth in the current UCI WorldTeam rankings. Ag2r-La Mondiale is the only French ProTeam team this season but would be unsure of a place in cycling’s elite next year if it finishes out of the top 15. Other teams, including French rivals Europcar, FDJ and Cofidis, are all trying to secure a place in the 2012 WorldTour.
The need for points to ensure the ProTeam future of the team has forced team manager Vincent Lavenu to consider points of a primary importance.
“It’s true that his results aren’t up to the standard we’d expected but he’s a good rider, he’s serious and that’s important. However I’m the manager of a company and my priority has to be to respond to the need of my investors and stay in the WorldTour,” he told L’Equipe.
“The rules that have been put in place this year change things. The big riders are taking advantage because they know that if a team doesn’t have points, then it’s in trouble. Dimitri is in a difficult position. I can understand that he is worried about his future. I’d love to reassure him but at the moment I can’t.”
Lavenu has thrown Champion a lifeline by giving him a chance to ride the Vuelta a Espana.
“I hope to win a stage,” Champion said, knowing that a victory would probably give him the WorldTour points needed to secure his future as a professional rider for another year.