The Europcar squad has assembled in Nantes for its first get-together ahead of the 2011 season. Manager Jean-René Bernaudeau confirmed that the team will not take part in the Tour of Qatar as it will be participating in the Tour of Langkawi.
“I turned down a great invitation [to the Tour of Qatar] because it didn’t seem possible to go there with a roster of 22 riders,” Bernaudeau told Ouest France. “We were already going to be engaged on two fronts, notably in Malaysia [at the Tour of Langkawi]. We need to save the group a little so as to be up there all year long.”
The team’s first race in their new Europcar colours will be the Tropicale Amissa Bongo in Gabon, from January 25-30, although Bernaudeau remained tight lipped about the design of the jersey and the sub-sponsors it may feature. The car hire firm stepped in to replace Bouygues Telecom as title sponsor at the eleventh hour in October.
“There could still be some changes as the new sponsor is deciding on its concept with a communications agency,” Bernaudeau said. “I had my input too so that it would fit with the advertising space that I have sold off my own bat.”
The new colour scheme will not be revealed until the team presentation in Paris on January 14. “It’s going to be strange,” Bernaudeau smiled. “The eye was accustomed to the blue [of Bouygues Telecom]. The kit is changing radically.”
Bernaudeau is pleased that the strong structure he has built up in the Vendée remains a force at professional level thanks to Europcar’s involvement. The squad grew out of the Vendée U amateur set up in 2000 and Bernaudeau is clearly proud of the team’s record in blooding young talent, pointing out that of the 22-man roster, “only five didn’t come from Vendée U.”
The team’s current gathering in Nantes is “100 per cent administrative” according to Bernaudeau, although Tour de France King of the Mountains Anthony Charteau admitted to Ouest France that the riders did find time to play indoor football. However, the serious work in the saddle begins with a training camp in Valencia from December 10-17.
“At eight days, so it’s not as long as last year, but it will be more intensive,” Bernaudeau said. “If all goes well, we’ll go back there in January. We chose the location because it’s well-served by flight connections.”