Vincent Lavenu has said that he is taking no pleasure from the fact that his AG2R-La Mondiale team is the only French squad to obtain a ProTeam licence for 2011. The AG2R manager also credited Nicolas Roche’s performances as being pivotal in securing the team’s status for next season.
“I’m really sorry for French cycling, which deserves far more than just one team in the first division because it is a structured cycling that carries true values,” Lavenu told L’Équipe. “I can’t revel in being the only French team at the highest level as we risk becoming a bit isolated in the big international races.”
FDJ manager Marc Madiot recently pointed out that France’s tax system impedes its cycling teams from competing with the financial clout of the peloton’s big hitters, and Lavenu admitted that French squads need to look at alternative ways of bolstering their line-ups.
“Faced with stronger and stronger financial competition at world level, France perhaps needs to revise its strategy,” he said.
AG2R were placed 20th on the UCI’s initial ranking of ProTeam applicants, which was based on sporting criteria, and Lavenu confessed that it was a huge relief to finally get the nod ahead of Cofidis and Geox. He also praised Nicolas Roche for showcasing the team at the highest level in 2010.
“It’s a huge relief after some sleepless nights,” Lavenu said. “I think that Nicolas Roche saved our season.”
Gadret eyes Giro d'Italia ride
Meanwhile, AG2R’s John Gadret, who famously clashed with Roche during the Tour de France, underlined just how important it is for the squad to ride at ProTeam level in 2011.
“It’s all the better for the riders, the staff and all the employees of our structure,” Gadret told La Voix du Nord. “Not being in the ProTour means a significant reduction in personnel.”
Gadret is also hopeful that the ProTeam licence will guarantee him a ride at the Giro d’Italia, where he impressed in 2010 by finishing 13th overall. “Without this licence, we wouldn’t have access to the big Italian and Spanish events,” he said. “The organisers might prefer to have invited teams from their countries.”
The French climber is particularly relieved that AG2R are set to ride all of the major events in 2011 given the ample size of the team's line-up.
“We could have ended up riding just one Grand Tour next season with a roster of 28 riders. It would have been very complicated,” Gadret said. “I wouldn’t like to be in the place of the guys at Cofidis.”