By Hedwig Kröner
Francisco Mancebo and Christophe Moreau, both newcomers to the French team AG2R, agree they will perfectly fit together to make a strong pair at the 2006 Tour de France, each one of them having his own objectives. While Moreau finished a respectable 11th in last year's edition of the Grand Tour - securing once again the spot of best Frenchman in General Classification - 'Paco' Mancebo ended up in fourth position, just missing the much-aspired podium placing that has become his ultimate goal for this season.
"Armstrong is gone, so the Tour is much more open now - for me as well as for many other riders," Mancebo told Cyclingnews in AG2R's pre-season training camp in L'Isle-sur-Sorgue, Provence. "That's my ambition this year: get to the Tour in better shape, increase my form during those three weeks and step on the podium in the end."
A goal his new teammate Moreau has vowed to support. "Mancebo and I know each other well; we've been up front together many times in stage races," the 34 year-old said. "I think that he might be our man for the General Classification more than myself at the Tour, and that I as a co-leader will be able to do like in Mulhouse: go for the jackpot like the yellow jersey, the stage victory or the Polkadot jersey," he continued, referring to stage nine of last year's Tour, where he chased Michael Rasmussen with former teammate Jens Voigt, earning Voigt the Yellow jersey and himself the second placing on GC.
Since his prologue victory in 2001, Moreau hasn't been able to win a stage at the Tour de France again, but he is already focused on his chances in this year's 'Grande Boucle', saying that his personal ambitions will not interfere at all with his responsibilities with regard to the team and especially Mancebo. To the contrary, Moreau sees the co-leadership as an asset opening up many possibilities. "Now that I'm not up for a podium spot anymore, I might as well try and get a stage victory - and why not a mountain stage to get some points for the mountains jersey?," he affirmed. "To collaborate with Paco in the mountains will be very good also because we will share the responsibility. I will be there to help him for the GC, but at the same time be able to go out for other things. Two is better than one!"
Look out for the full interviews with both Francisco Mancebo and Christophe Moreau on Cyclingnews in the coming days.