After the departure of Philippe Gilbert to Silence-Lotto, Française des Jeux will start this season...
After the departure of Philippe Gilbert to Silence-Lotto, FranÃ§aise des Jeux will start this season without a clear leader. This became apparent during the team's presentation in Paris on Monday, but team manager Marc Madiot believes this hasn't weakened his squad, despite its roster now boasting only 23 riders.
"I do not think that the departure of Gilbert has weakened us," Madiot told Sporza.be. "Whoever works in any way, they'll be the leader of our team."
Madiot hopes that Matthieu Ladagnous and Gianni Meersman can take over Gilbert's role as protagonists in some of the season's major races, although Gilbert's absence is still a big gap to fill.
The squad has the lowest average age of any in the ProTour, and just as Madiot helped develop Gilbert he hopes the likes of Anthony Geslin, in addition to Meersman and Ladagnous, can benefit from riding with experienced hands such as Sandy Casar and FrÃ©dÃ©ric Guesdon, both of whom are continuing with the team in 2009.