Romain Bardet loses key member of coaching team

Staff changes at French WorldTour team ahead of 2019

Romain Bardet's 'altitude expert', Samuel Bellenoue, has quit his role at AG2R La Mondiale to join Belgian Pro Continental team Wanty-Groupe Gobert as their performance director for 2019, according to L'Equipe.

Bellenoue has worked with French WorldTour outfit AG2R for the past three seasons, and was a key member of the group that helped team leader Bardet to prepare for the mountains at the Tour de France each year.

A specialist climber, Bardet participates in regular training camps at altitude ahead of the Tour de France, including in the Sierra Nevada mountains in southern Spain, where this year Bardet and teammates Pierre Latour and Axel Domont did 'oxygen deficiency sprint reps' to ready them for attacks and counter attacks in the mountains at the Tour.

As well as providing his expertise in altitude training, Bellenoue was also responsible for the team's time trial training – an area in which Bardet has always struggled.

However, according to Bellenoue, his departure stems from the fact that AG2R were unable to sign a rider they had their eye on – from Wanty-Groupe Gobert.

"AG2R La Mondiale wanted to recruit Guillaume Martin – a rider I train," Bellenoue said on lequipe.fr. "When Guillaume decided to stay at Wanty, it was the end of our collaboration. However, he spoke to his manager, Jean-François Boulart, about me, who suggested that I join the organisation as head of performance.

"It was an opportunity and even a career choice, as I'd wanted to try working in another country," said Bellenoue.

As a result, according to L'Equipe, AG2R have taken on the now defunct Aqua Blue Sport team's head of performance, Stephen Barrett, as well as former WB-Aqua Protect-Veranclassic coach Alexandre Abel, while coach Mickaël Bouget has also left AG2R having become the national track coach at Swiss Cycling in June.

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