Insists Roche feud is no longer an issue
Ag2r-La Mondiale manager Vincent Lavenu has refused to rule out the possibility of fielding John Gadret alongside Nicolas Roche at the Tour de France.
Gadret, who finished the Giro d’Italia in 4th place on Sunday, told Cyclingnews at the finish in Milan that Tour participation was a “big question mark” but Lavenu has listed the Frenchman in his provisional roster of 13 pre-selected riders.
“I hope that he does the Tour, but the decision hasn’t been taken,” Lavenu told L’Équipe. “We’ve put his name on the list of thirteen, and in a week or ten days John will say what he plans on doing.”
Lavenu admitted that Gadret’s stunning performance at the Giro meant that the 32-year-old’s standing in the team had grown, and that he had the freedom to decide for himself if he felt capable of performing at a high level so soon after his endeavours in Italy.
“I’ll leave the decision to him, his status after the Giro gives him the authority,” Lavenu explained. “But if he goes to the Tour, it won’t be reluctantly.”
Ireland’s Nicolas Roche, 15th last year and then 7th at the Vuelta a España, is nominally Ag2r’s leader for the Tour, but Lavenu insisted that his team did not operate on a strictly hierarchical structure.
“There isn’t an uncontested leader like Nibali at Liquigas or Scarponi at Lampre,” he said.
A lack of clarity regarding the roles of Roche and Gadret could cause its own headaches, however. When Roche punctured 6km from the top of the Port de Bales on stage 15 last year, Gadret refused to give his apparent leader his wheel and then attacked from the group of favourites while Roche was chasing back on.
Roche memorably recounted the incident in a column for the Irish Independent at the time. “If John Gadret is found dead in his hotel room in the morning, I will probably be the primary suspect,” Roche wrote the following day, before describing the scene on the team bus after the stage: "Although I wanted to smash his head in, and had visions of a baldy French climber exiting through the windscreen, I let Vincent do his job as team manager and said nothing."
Lavenu is now keen to downplay the possibility of any enduring strife between the pair and put Roche’s July outburst down to the stresses and strains of the biggest race of all.
“At the Tour you sometimes say a lot of things because of tiredness,” Lavenu said. “Gadret acknowledged his error and Roche’s communication was too aggressive."
While Gadret reached Paris as the highest-placed Frenchman, earning an invitation to meet Nicolas Sarkozy at the Elysee Palace for his 19th place overall, Roche was the first Ag2r-La Mondiale rider on the general classification, and the Irishman insists that the matter is now behind them.
“I think we’ve both learned lessons from that story,” Roche said. “A month ago at the Tour de Romandie, I gave him a hand to place him at the foot of the climbs.”
Roche is currently at a training camp at La Toussuire as he continues his build-up to the Tour de France.