French outfit Europcar has had a very successful Tour de France this year, with Thomas Voeckler wearing the yellow jersey for ten days and finishing a very respectable fourth in Paris. Team manager Jean-René Bernaudeau was proud of what his riders had achieved together, and while he did regret that Voeckler lost a possible podium placing on the stage to l’Alpe d'Huez, he is now looking ahead to strengthen his squad for future glory.
"Looking back, I can say that we were in it for the win," Bernaudeau told L'Équipe on the penultimate day of the Tour de France in Grenoble. "But our story at this Tour is beautiful, so we're not going to complain."
Under pressure from an early attack by Alberto Contador, Voeckler spent too much time chasing the leaders alone on the Galibier on stage 19. "He did those ten kilometres that he shouldn't have done on his own," Bernaudeau admitted. "He should have stopped [and waited for the chase group which was only one minute behind him - ed.] But Thomas got angry and that's the moment when everything turned around. We could have started the time trial with 15 seconds advantage... I've never seen him like that, so disappointed."
But the positive outcome on the Champs-Élysées still outweighs the negatives, and Bernaudeau was quick to turn the page, thinking about the future of his squad. The team's sponsor Europcar would like to see the outfit grow internationally, with a possible return to the WorldTour. But Benaudeau insisted that he will maintain the team's philosophy in the process and not hire additional riders with the sole objective of obtaining a ProTeam licence.
Bernaudeau denied that his objective was to return to the top flight in 2012. "No, our objective is just to be good and to win races. We will strengthen the squad and apply for a licence, but we have never talked about points in the team. What counts is to win, and we shouldn't lose this way of managing to win."
Benaudeau was adamant that he wouldn't look at riders' points tallies when considering offering them a contract, and that his sponsor did not pressure him to do so. "No, I won't buy any points. I don't want to damage this team. We just need a little more, and we have the means. Europcar has agreed for us to grow. They told me that we can go race abroad, but it's not the main concern. If we have to go to the Tour Down Under because we're back in First Division, they won’t ask me to have an Australian in the team. The sporting aspect is left completely up to me."
The team manager admitted he had spoken with world champion Thor Hushovd as well as Sylvain Chavanel from Quickstep, amongst others, but he could not enter into any detail prior to August 1, when the official transfer season begins.
"Hushovd has a mentality that would match us perfectly. Sylvain (Chavanel) has already done seven years with us. He's the most fabulous rider that we've ever had. But I know a few guys that I would like to sign."