Due to self-suspension following the positive dope test of Sylvain Georges for heptaminol, Ag2r-La Mondiale won't take the start of the Dauphiné on home soil next weekend but the French team based in the Alps has showed some character with Samuel Dumoulin winning the GP Plumelec and Carlos Betancur climbing the Tre Cime di Lavaredo in his successful search of the white jersey of best young rider at the Giro d'Italia.
At the age of 32, Dumoulin cried and was taken by emotion on Saturday in Brittany even though he's not new to winning. The GP Plumelec is the 31st victory of his pro career. Hugs with his teammates, particularly with former Tour de France yellow jersey wearer Rinaldo Nocentini who also has a lot of experience, weren't just a show. They came as compensation for the hard time the team went through the week before. Following the rules of the Movement for Credible Cycling (MPCC), Ag2r-La Mondiale had no choice but suspend itself from the next WorldTour race, as Georges was their second positive rider in 12 months after Steve Houanard for EPO in September last year. It's compulsory for every Pro Team to take part in WorldTour events but the UCI decided on Saturday to validate Ag2r-La Mondiale's decision without any financial penalty.
"This win comes at the right time for our team," Dumoulin reacted in Plumelec. "It's a relief after the difficult days we've just been through. We didn't talk much about it but we all know how much what happened is painful. We're all wounded, that's why this victory is even sweeter. Cycling is a beautiful sport and we do it the best way we can."
Boosted by Betancur's fifth place overall and his quest of the white jersey at the Tre Cime di Lavaredo on Saturday, Ag2r-La Mondiale tried to set up a second uphill sprint finish for Dumoulin at the Boucles de l'Aulne on Sunday but a group of almost 20 riders stayed away and all they got was the award of most combative rider for Jean-Christophe Péraud.
"I've been at the front all day but it wasn't for myself," said the former mountain biker who finished third at Paris-Nice earlier this year. "My next race is the Tour de Suisse for which I was scheduled anyway, so my race program doesn't change. However, I feel united with my teammates who won't be able to race the Dauphiné. This race is an important step in the lead up to the Tour de France. But it's important for the team to stick to this commitment."
It's even more painful for team manager Vincent Lavenu to miss this particular race. In 20 years of existence since the first version called Chazal-Vanille et Mûre in 1992, his squad based in the French Alps has never missed the Dauphiné, which is the race of his heart. That's where his development team Chambéry Cyclisme Formation can watch the pros racing every year. Former riders of his like Alexandre Vinokourov often recall the pressure they felt from the boss when taking part in the Dauphiné.
"It's extremely penalizing for riders who have done nothing wrong," Lavenu deplored. "It's not a mistake from the team, it's because of two individual mistakes but the price to pay is high." Reassurance is already back in the French camp as Dumoulin, who returned this year to the team run by his father-in-law, straightened up the collective states of mind.