The emphasis was on youth as the 2005 La Francaise des Jeux team was presented in Paris on Wednesday. Directeur Sportif Marc Madiot is keen to combine the experience of riders like Australian Brad McGee with the youthful fervour of riders such as 22 year-old Belgian Philippe Gilbert.
Madiot believes the team is a "great family," and with this sentiment the role of riders such as Baden Cooke and McGee is paramount to a successful 2005. With five neo-pros on the roster, including 24 year-old French Cyclocross Champion Francis Mourey and 20 year-old Junior World Champion (2002) Arnaud Gérard, the mixture of youth and experience isn't just a publicity claim.
Australian Mark Renshaw, a relatively new recruit for the French team, should also benefit from Madiot's focus on developing youth and allowing them "to express themselves." After major back surgery late in 2004, Renshaw (22) is another young rider looking to ride higher-profile races in 2005. A top-ten finish at the recent Jacob's Creek Tour Down Under was just the way he was looking to start the year, and although he stated in the lead-up to the event that he was aiming for stage victories, his ninth place overall displayed a consistency that will have impressed Madiot.
Brad McGee, aiming for a top-ten finish in this year's Tour de France after his eighth overall at last year's Giro, will be vital to Francaise des Jeux's 2005 campaign. Speaking in Sydney last month, he outlined the plans to focus on the Tour as the French team has the potential for big things within the ProTour format. He said that the plan is to "race hard until (the Tour of) Romandie, which takes us into May," and then it's into the mountains for training and reconnaissance of the Tour's climbs.