For the first time since the team was created in 1992 under the name of Chazal-Vanille et Mûre and Estonian stagiaire Jaan Kirsipuu won stage one of Paris-Bourges, there might not be a rider from Eastern Europe in Vincent Lavenu's Ag2r-La Mondiale squad next year.
Latvia's Gatis Smukulis, Estonia's René Mandri and the Efimkin brothers are on their way out, while Tadej Valjavec's contract has little chance of being extended for 2011; although he hasn't been suspended by the Slovenian federation, the UCI has insisted he stop racing following examination of his biological passport. But for now he's not racing due to injury.
"Vladimir Efimkin has already left the team on a mutual agreement because he wanted to rejoin his family in the United States," Lavenu told Cyclingnews. "I remain convinced that he could have had a better career. He made the top 10 of the Tour de France with us."
In 2008, Efimkin eventually became the winner of stage nine to Bagnères-de-Bigorre after the disqualification of Riccardo Ricco, but he hasn't won a race since.
Yuriy Krivtsov will stay with Ag2r-La Mondiale in 2011 but he's no longer Ukrainian as he recently switched to French nationality after living in France for the past decade.
Lavenu has recruited only French riders for the coming season. After Mathieu Perget (Caisse d'Epargne), Sébastien Minard (Cofidis), Romain Lemarchand (BigMat-Auber 93) and Steve Houanard (Skil-Shimano), Mikaël Chérel (Française Des Jeux) has signed a one-year contract with Ag2r-La Mondiale.
"I'm very happy to have sealed this deal," said the 24-year-old from Normandy who recently finished fifth in Paris-Corrèze. "I was also offered a contract by Bretagne-Schuller but I prefer to be able to take part in the same races as with Française Des Jeux."
Former national champion as a junior, Chérel underwent surgery for a cyst twice this year. He's been off the bike for two and half months. "I hope to ride a solid Vuelta to prepare well for next season," he explained.
Lavenu's fully French recruitment so far is still likely to be reinforced by one or two foreign riders, however. The priority of the team manager from France's Alpine region was to keep his biggest names - Nicholas Roche, Rinaldo Nocentini, Martin Elmiger, John Gadret and Tour de France stage winner Christophe Riblon - who all decided to stay.