The new rule of only one 'hot spot' sprint rather than three highlights the strong presence of French team FDJ in the breakaways of the first half of the Tour de France. The squad directed by Marc Madiot has had a rider in almost every breakaway. Only one of them was in a winning move but Sandy Casar came third behind Luis Leon Sanchez and Thomas Voeckler on stage 9. Despite that the four-leaf-clover team has dominated the hot spot sprint competition.
Jérémy Roy was the winner in Avrillé on stage 1 - and second to Johnny Hoogerland on stage 4. He paved the way for Mickaël Delage to also be first in St-Hilaire-de-Chaléons on stage 2, in Buzançais on stage 7 and in Gaillac on stage 11. Anthony Roux took the sprint in Vassy on stage 6, so did Casar in Neuvéglise on stage 9 and rookie Arthur Vichot in Maurs on stage 10. It makes seven wins out of ten, as one of eleven stages was a team time trial.
"I didn’t count them but they are our stage wins at 1500 euros each," Madiot reacted to Cyclingnews with the hint of a laugh. Intermediate sprints don’t only award points but also earn a handy 1500 euros in prize money for every winner. With seven wins they've earned themselves a cool 10,500 euros so far in the race - of course a stage win by itself is 8000, but it's not nothing.
"We are not particularly looking for these sprints," Madiot said. "We don’t plan such moves but our riders have been really keen to go for breakaways. They’re very motivated, so we let them go, and once they’re at the front, when there’s money to collect, it helps for the morale of the troops."
Listening to Madiot, hot spot "primes" seem to be a compensation for the impossibility to win stages. FDJ won the team classification for the day with William Bonnet, Arnold Jeannesson and Gianni Meersman all making the top 15 - at the top end of the stage for a change!
"Today there wasn’t much missing for the breakaway to succeed," he noted. "But it seems like all the teams of the sprinters ride behind breakaways no matter what. In the past, when a sprinter dominated, his team had to do all the work. And now, Garmin or Lotto ride with HTC although they know [Mark] Cavendish has nine chances out of ten to win. Lotto even rides for losing the green jersey! What if Philippe loses the points classification by five points? They might regret what they’ve done today."
Unsurprisingly, Madiot was disappointed by the first week of the Tour, considering his team has featured in so many breaks with little reward. "Except for the crashes and the winning breakaway of Casar and [Thomas] Voeckler, which has also been favoured by a crash, nothing has happened really [for us] since the start," the Frenchman said.