Heulot delighted with Saur-Sojasun Tour de France wild card

French manager says his team deserves place

Saur-Sojasun team manager Stéphane Heulot on Thursday applauded Tour de France organisers ASO's "logical" decision to grant his team a wild card for the 2011 race.

The Rennes-based Professional Continental division team will ride the Tour for the first time, having been selected ahead of Mauro Gianetti's Geox-TMC outfit.

"I feel great joy," Heulot told Cyclingnews. "It's also a logical choice which shows that the Tour organizers have seen the team progress over the past two years. We're the 22nd ranked team in the world, so it makes sense that we're one of the 22 teams starting the biggest race in the sport, the Tour."

Also on Thursday, ASO revealed that another French Professional Continental team, Bretagne-Schuller, had been awarded a starting place in Paris-Nice at the expense of Saur-Sojasun.

Far from expressing frustration, Heulot welcomed ASO's even-handedness. "I welcome them giving other teams an opportunity," the former Tour yellow jersey-wearer said. "We've got what we wanted; it's only fair that others also get their chance."

Come July, French supporters will hope that Saur's budding stage-race prodigy Jérôme Coppel can reproduce the climbing form which took him to fourth place on Alpe d'Huez in the Critérium du Dauphiné in 2010, and fifth overall. In the two Jimmys, Engoulvent and Casper, Heulot also boasts two riders with a proven pedigree in time trials and sprints respectively. This trio could well form the nucleus of a versatile and ambitious team at the Grande Boucle - although Engoulvent will rue the lack of a prologue time trial.

"We'll be looking to carry on where we left off in 2010 - that's to say winning," Heulot said. "Last year we won 19 races with 12 different riders, so we have lots of options. Anyone who has watched us over the last two years will know that we'll be in the thick of the action. The early stages in Brittany will be great to watch for me, as a Breton, but we want to be successful throughout the three weeks. We want to honour the Tour..."

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