FDJ.fr manager Marc Madiot has set his team a target of 35 victories for the 2014 season. Although the French squad finished a lowly 17th in the 2013 WorldTour rankings and failed to win a stage at the Tour de France, it also recorded 33 total wins from eleven different riders, and Madiot is hopeful of adding greater quality to that quantity this season.
“I’m proud of this team,” Madiot said at the FDJ.fr presentation in Paris on Tuesday, according to AFP. “The idea is to be present throughout the calendar. We want to try to improve in the classics and be competitive in the grand tours, with the Tour de France as the high point. We want to take some revenge there.”
FDJ.fr entered the 2013 Tour with high aspirations for Thibaut Pinot after his stage victory and top 10 finish of the previous year. The Frenchman’s overall challenge fell apart when he was dropped on the descent of the Porte de Pailhères on the first day in the Pyrenees, and he later abandoned the race through illness. Tour debutant Nacer Bouhanni also abandoned the race before he could make a real impact in the sprints, and the team ended the race without a stage win.
“We have the means, and we’ve gained in maturity and cohesion,” Madiot said of the team’s tilt at improved fortunes in the Tour de France next July.
Madiot is confident that Pinot’s morale has been restored after his 7th place finish at the Vuelta a España, and the Franche-Compté native will ride the Tour of Oman, Volta a Catalunya, Tour of the Basque Country, Bayern Rundfahrt and Tour de Suisse as part of his build-up to the Tour, and he is also set to return to the Vuelta in August. “You’re going to see him again in 2014, and on the Tour too,” Madiot said.
For his part, Pinot is particularly motivated by the prospect of riding on home roads at the Tour. In a repeat of two years ago, La Planche des Filles features on stage 10, and the summit finish is just a stone’s throw from Pinot’s hometown of Mélisey. “I’ve had the Planche des Belles Filles stage on July 14 highlighted since October,” Pinot told AFP.
Bouhanni and Arnaud Démare will once again take on sprinting duties at FDJ.fr, although the Démare is also set to make a concerted effort to develop on the cobbles in what is his third season as a professional. The 2011 under-23 world champion claimed 9 victories in 2013 but is under no illusion about what he faces in the classics. “I still have a lot to learn, I’m looking to the long-term,” Démare said.
The FDJ.fr presentation also saw the team pay tribute to Sandy Casar, who retired at the end of last season. The quietly-spoken Casar was invited on stage, where he was presented with a painting to mark his 14 seasons with the team. “I want to thank Sandy for his attitude and his persistence,” Madiot said. “For me, this team was like a family, and it’s still like a family,” Casar replied.