By Jean-François Quénet With five days to go to France's Paris-Nice, cycling's traditional season...
By Jean-FranÃ§ois QuÃ©net
With five days to go to France's Paris-Nice, cycling's traditional season opener, the teams from the host nation have chosen carefully their line-up. All five French teams have ridden successfully at the beginning of the year, but Paris-Nice, March 8 to 15, will be the first test of their competitiveness.
FranÃ§aise des Jeux: Sandy Casar, SÃ©bastien Chavanel, MickaÃ«l ChÃ©rel, SÃ©bastien Joly, Mathieu Ladagnous, Christophe Le Mevel, JÃ©rÃ©my Roy and Jussi Veikkanen.
FranÃ§aise des Jeux has two captains with Sandy Casar and Jussi Veikkanen. The latter has as come close to wins with ninth in the Tour Down Under, second in the Tour MÃ©diterranÃ©en and third in the Tour du Haut Var. On-form Mathieu Ladagnous will have some freedom to attack. SÃ©bastien Chavanel will be their sprinter for the first two stages.
AG2R La Mondiale: JosÃ© Luis Arrieta, StÃ©phane Goubert, Hubert Dupont, Vladimir Efimkin, SÃ©bastien Hinault, Rinaldo Nocentini, Christophe Riblon and Nicolas Roche.
The team will clearly be riding once again for sprinter Rinaldo Nocentini. The winner of stage seven of the Tour of California finished second in Paris-Nice last year behind Davide Rebellin. Rebellin's current Diquigiovanni-Androni team isn't taking part in the Race to the Sun.
Bbox Bouygues Telecom: Olivier Bonnaire, Cyril Gautier, Yohann GÃ¨ne, Alexandre Pichot, Pierre Rolland, Yuriy Krivtsov, SÃ©bastien Turgot and Thomas Voeckler.
After winning the Etoile de BessÃ¨ges and the Tour du Haut Var, also showing a persistent form in Belgium (11th in the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and 14th in the Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne), Thomas Voeckler is the natural leader.
The team from VendÃ©e also has high ambitions for their young French prodigies: European Under 23 champion Cyril Gautier and up-and-coming Pierre Rolland, who broke away on Sunday at the Clasica AlmerÃa and succumbed only with four kilometres to go. Tour de Langkawi stage seven winner GÃ¨ne will also line up with great confidence.
Cofidis: StÃ©phane AugÃ©, MickaÃ«l Buffaz, Samuel Dumoulin, AmaÃ«l Moinard, David MoncoutiÃ©, Damien Monier, RÃ©mi Pauriol and Rein TaaramÃ¤e.
After winning the GP Lugano ahead of last year's Paris-Nice winner Davide Rebellin, Pauriol is full of hopes prior to his first big goal of the year. MoncoutiÃ©, who won the uphill stage the Tour MÃ©diterranÃ©en at the Mont Faron, targets the mountains classification. Estonian talent TaaramÃ¤e looks to take one step higher in his career.
Agritubel: Maxime Bouet, Sylvain Calzati, Romain Feillu, Yann Huguet, Christophe Laurent, Geoffroy Lequatre, Christophe Moreau and Nicolas Vogondy.
Quite successful in the category two races recently, Agritubel will count on French champion Vogondy and the man of the come-backs Calzati for the overall classification at Paris-Nice. Offensive and fast men Feillu and Lequatre have no intention to stay silent next week.