Rental company Europcar has confirmed via a press release by general director Philippe Guillemot that it has signed a three-year deal with Jean-René Bernaudeau to take over from Bbox Bouygues Telecom as the title sponsor of the French team. The squad has been part of the professional peloton since 2000, having previously race under the names of Bonjour and Brioches La Boulangère.
“It’s a huge relief”, said team captain Thomas Voeckler who had agreed to join Cofidis in the event that Bernaudeau’s team folded. “Honestly, I didn’t believe anymore that a solution would come along. I’m thankful to the people from Europcar who have organised everything in a period of three days.”
It’s rumoured that the president of Europcar was touched by an article in the press last week that reported the news of the probable demise of the team.
Bernaudeau refused to reveal the budget of his new team. “It’s not a huge budget but the human adventure continues,” said Voeckler, who joined the feeder team Vendée U in 1999 and has always stayed faithful to the same organisation. His loyalty was instrumental in the rescue of the team, as someone from Europcar called him on Friday as he was about to sign for Cofidis.
“I didn’t see myself leaving fifty people unemployed,” the French champion explained.
Alongside Voeckler, this year’s Tour de France king of the mountains Anthony Charteau and up and coming Frenchmen Pierre Rolland and Cyril Gautier are going to form the core of the team. Previous senior riders Pierrick Fedrigo and Nicolas Vogondy had already agreed to leave, for FDJ and Cofidis respectively, before the announcement of Europcar’s partnership.
Bernaudeau was supposed to send contracts and guarantees to the UCI by October 1st but was given a three-day extension to help to complete this last-minute deal. However, the team is no longer eligible for the World Tour despite bidding for a new licence, so Europcar will remain in the Pro Continental ranks and aim for a wild card for the Tour de France, which will begin in their home province of the Vendée next year.