French team looking to regain the World Tour
The coming year may bring another merger of cycling's top teams, as Cofidis general manager Eric Boyer seeks to improve the situation of his team by combining with a larger outfit. In an interview with La Voix Du Nord, Boyer said a merger would be a practical solution to the team's relatively small budget and inability to attract top riders to regain its place in the WorldTour.
"This year we have seen mergers between some great teams: RadioShack and Leopard-Trek, Quick Step and Omega Pharma. I also have had this discussion for two years," Boyer said. "We began by giving it lip service. Last year, it was more serious. I hope we can go through with our idea at the end of the year."
The team's fortunes declined after the exit of Sylvain Chavanel at the end of 2008. Following his stage wins in Paris-Nice and the Tour de France, and a stint in the leader's jersey at the Vuelta a Espana, Chavanel was lured away by the QuickStep team.
"In 2010 we wanted to bring Sylvain Chavanel back, and we were prepared to increase our budget to strengthen the team and apply for a [WorldTour] license," Boyer said. "However, we didn't find anyone to replace him and gain the necessary UCI points. We remain on the same budget in 2011."
That budget, estimated to be between 8.5 and 9 million Euros is far below that of the biggest WorldTour teams, and by Boyer's account is 3.5 million Euros less than what the team operated on when it was last in the WorldTour in 2009.
Three years in the Professional Continental ranks later, Boyer is growing weary of having to fight for wildcard spots in the Tour de France - a situation in which three other French teams find themselves: Team Europcar, Saur-Sojasun and Bretagne Schuller.
"I think the situation will continue. The Tour will no longer be able to satisfy all the French teams," Boyer said, adding that the chances for the French teams could decline further in 2013. "More and more foreign teams are built with a budgets at around 12 million euros. They have great champions, who are expensive. The organizers cannot do without them. It's a pity [Estonian Rein] Taramaae is not French ... "
If Cofidis was not invited to the Tour de France, it would be a disaster for his team, Boyer said. The sponsors count on the Tour for exposure, and Boyer estimates 80 per cent of the year's return on the sponsors' investment comes during the Tour. "If our team doesn't contest the Tour, then it doesn't exist. All of our best riders would leave."
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