By Jean-François Quénet in Brest
Marc Madiot has introduced his Française des Jeux team as the "Bretonne des jeux" since he selected four Breton riders for the start in Brest: former French champion for time trial Benoît Vaugrenard, Lilian Jégou, Yoann Le Boulanger and Arnaud Gérard who is still in search of an international win since he became the Junior world champion in Zolder in 2002. "But they are not here because the Tour starts in their region," Madiot stressed. "Had they not hailed from the north, my selection would have been the same."
For the first two stages, FDJ will have eight Frenchmen at the service of their Belgian star Philippe Gilbert who is "dreaming strongly of yellow." This will be the last Tour for Gilbert in the white, red and blue kit of his French squad before he moves over to the Belgian Silence-Lotto outfit.
"I hope for an open Tour," Madiot said. "I like the way Christian Prudhomme has built the course with many possibilities for unexpected attacks to succeed. But I would have liked an even more audacious parcours with an incursion close to here on the 'ribin of the Tro Bro Leon' (the dirt sections of the Breton Paris-Roubaix). I know ASO has considered it, I hope they'll take the opportunity to create interest for the Tour de France with sections like that in the future."
Madiot has already something else in mind for next year. "I strongly support the idea of the Tour de France to be contested by eight man teams rather than nine for now," he said. "It's up in the air for more teams to be able to start the race, but that would make the Tour better if it's harder for one team to control the whole race." In the '70s the Tour de France lined up ten-man teams (ten teams of ten riders each in 1977!) but it looks like the future is set for eight-man teams like in the one-day races.