French team Europcar has returned from a first preseason training camp held on the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe. Combining a solid quantity of physical work-out and the joys of sandy beaches in a tropical climate, the get-together was a success.
"It went very well," team manager Jean-René Bernaudeau told Velochrono. "Every day, we started from the hotel for a ride to a beach, where we had lunch. It was a different beach every day - the most beautiful ones - as another goal was to make the riders discover Guadeloupe. After lunch, we played ball games on the beach and went swimming."
The team building event à la française was designed to integrate the new riders to the already existing core group. "The new guys are already happily integrated within the team," he added on the team's official website. "Pierre Rolland and Thomas Voeckler are already showing a huge desire to be back in the saddle. Björn Thurau is really sharp. You can already sense a real dynamic building within the team."
Europcar, who had applied for a WorldTour licence with the UCI, was recently told that it would remain in the Professional Continental ranks next year. Bernaudeau had been looking to recruit a high-profile Spring Classics rider such as Sylvain Chavanel, Thor Hushovd or Filippo Pozzato in the hope of being allocated a license, but now was happy to continue on a lower level.
"In the end, we've got the rider signings we wanted. You have to take into account that if we pay a rider one million Euros, it would create tension within the team, with respect to those riders who launched the project. And it generates huge expectations from the sponsor, who pays a lot for the signing. I don't need that. I need the team to be good and in progress. Group dynamics is a priority to us, and you have to be very careful," Bernaudeau explained.
This season has been a very successful one for the French squad, with Voeckler's fourth place at the Tour de France and Rolland's stage victory and best young rider placing the outstanding international performances. "If Christophe Kern hadn't injured himself at the beginning of the Tour, we would have had one more rider in the top ten and won the team classification," added Bernaudeau, who was not worried about not receiving wildcard invitatiopns for the major races.
"The team has a good rating. It's the most appealing of the Professional Continental ranks - which doesn't mean that we'll get invited where we want. I have already sent off the applications, now we are waiting for responses."
Europcr will start the 2012 season having added five new riders to an otherwise unchanged roster. The five riders are: Angelo Tulik (Vendée U), David Malacarne (Quick Step), Rafâa Chtioui (Acqua & Sapone), Matteo Pelucchi (Geox) and Björn Thurau (Team NSP).
"The important thing is that the team improves," Bernaudeau once again stressed. "It's still young, we have promising riders and in 2013 more will come. I already have some ideas, I'm not worried. I'm not disappointed," he added, refering to the missed-out Wolrd Tour licence.