While the FDJ-Nacer Bouhanni saga has made the headlines in 2014 and resulted in a move by the five-time Grand Tour stage winner to Cofidis, the four-leave clover team will line up at the Santos Tour Down Under with a new sprinter called Lorrenzo Manzin. Aged 20 and originally from the Reunion island, a French province in the Indian Ocean, the neo-pro is the second youngest rider on the start list of the South Australian event after UniSA's Robert Power, 19.
"This is my debut in the World Tour," Manzin told Cyclingnews in Adelaide. "It'll allow me to see the gap I yet have to fill up to compete against the world's top sprinters. I look forward to discover the level and the way of sprinting. I've trained pretty hard for my first pro season but now I want to know where I stand. I'm a puncheur-sprinter and I like sprinting in hills like there are on the course here. We'll draw the first conclusions of my competences in the evening of January 25."
"I'm not racing under any pressure except the one I'm putting on myself," he added. "I'm not physically ready at 200% either. I want to be competitive all year. I have a lot of French cup races on my agenda. I will push my limits and I aim at improving every year, following a career plan. FDJ has signed two sprinters as neo-pros [Marc Sarreau is the other one]. The goal is replace Bouhanni but it's not written when we have to perform at that level. Nacer won one of his first races in Gabon but it also took some time until he became a regular winner at international pro level. Not everyone can win as young as Caleb Ewan does."
Manzin is one more black rider in the peloton alongside the Carribbean riders like Yohan Gène (Europcar), Kevin Reza (now also with FDJ) whose parents are from Guadeloupe and the Africans. After Bouhanni whose ancestors hailed from Algeria, cycling showcases the ethnical and geographical diversity of France.
"Looking at a map of the world, I come from somewhere near Africa but I consider myself from Reunion and France," said the native of Saint-Denis-de-la-Réunion. "I've never raced in South Africa or anywhere on that continent. I'm no more African than Guadeloupeans would be introduced as Americans. My cycling history is in Europe."
A French champion for points race at the age of 15 in the U17 category, he travelled to the mainland on a few occasions to take part in the Madiot Trophy in 2010 (4th of the series overall). He was hosted in a family from the Reunion in Châteaubriant where Cyrille Guimard, Christophe Lavainne, Yvon Madiot and Marty Jemison got their career starting. He joined the cycling school of La Roche-sur-Yon fifteen years after Thomas Voeckler made his way to Vendée from the Martinique Island in the Carribbeans to pursue his dream of becoming a pro cyclist. He raced as an amateur for UC Nantes-Atlantique exactly ten years after Simon Gerrans who he's a big fan of.
"It wasn't easy to leave home so young but I've been lucky to have great people to advise me," Manzin said. "Yvon Madiot got me a two-year scholarship from the Crédit Mutuel bank that sponsors the Madiot Trophy so I was able to pay for additional lessons when I was missing school due to my cycling commitments. Then I became part of the FDJ foundation that helps young athletes from different sports.
"Thanks to that I got my A-levels and my degree in sales. Now I'd like to keep studying to become a real estate agent after my career. I've completely followed the development program of the Madiot brothers until the pro ranks, so I want to repay them for their trust in my abilities to be a good cyclist."
Click here to subscribe to the Cyclingnews video channel.