Team Europcar may be reeling from the news that a doping investigation into the team's performance at the 2011 Tour de France has been launched, but they will head into this year's race with a squad capable of putting a rider, notably Pierre Rolland, high up in the standings. And the young Frenchman isn't just focussing on the overall classification.
"The polka dot jersey is a dream," he said during an online interview on his team's website.
Rolland’s 2011 Tour was impressive and not only due to his Alpe d’Huez stage win, white jersey classification win and 10th-place overall. He achieved all this while also riding in the service of Thomas Voeckler, who finished just off the podium - in fourth - after wearing the yellow jersey for 10 days.
Team director Jean-Rene Bernaudeau spoke about the team's hopes for this year’s race, which, thanks to a fine display in last year’s edition and some unfortunate injury woes for Voeckler, will rest on Rolland's shoulders.
"Our selection was partly built around Pierre," he said. "Thomas is our natural leader. But we will play the standings with Pierre."
It would seem that a repeat of last year’s accomplishments will be near impossible to repeat for the French team, especially given the knee trouble that has interrupted Voeckler’s Tour preparation. Voeckler has already stated his form is not the same as last year.
Rolland places high expectations on himself but is also realistic about his chances for the overall classification.
"I do not think about winning [the Tour]. What I did last year was great, I never thought I could be at that level. The public wants a Frenchman on the top step. I did everything to be better this year and to make the best of my potential. However, there is a gap between expectations and my abilities," Rolland said.
The remaining spots on the team have been given to riders capable of assisting Rolland’s general classification ambitions and it would seem their usual breakaway tactics will be subdued compared to other years.
"We have built a team where there will be consistency around him with real lieutenants," said Bernaudeau.