Romain Sicard entered the Vuelta a España with hopes of a high overall finish in his first grand tour as a protected GC rider. A crash in the first week of the race looked to have ended the aspirations of the Team Europcar rider but Sicard improved as the race progresses to finish in 13th place overall.
The result was by far the best that Sicard had managed at a three-week race – his previous best placing was 44th at the 2012 Vuelta – which impressed director sportif Andy Flickinger.
While riding in service of teammate Pierre Rolland at the Giro d'Italia in May, Sicard left a favourable impression on Flickinger who saw enough in the former U23 World Champion to give him the opportunity of leading the team at the Vuelta where he didn't disappoint.
"Romain was very conscientious during those three weeks," Flickering said of the Vuelta. "It is a role that is not easy and asked him a lot of concentration. He managed to carry this role there, it is very encouraging for the future.
"The complexity of the role of leader is to take the weight of the team on the ranking. Even at the back of the peloton, the leader cannot relax, there must always be paying attentive. Roman had no downtime during those three weeks.
"He unfortunately had a small crash at the start of the Vuelta which destabilized, but it has proved resilient. He is the only one of the top-20 riders who managed to take risks, heading into the breakaway packs and trying to win stages of the race. He was consistently performing well."
The biggest surprise of Sicard's Vuelta for Flickinger was the 26-year-old's performance in the stage 10 individual time trial.
"He was very comfortable against the clock, with a nice 14th place," he said. "It was a terrain that suited him, but he has made good progress in this area. He is strong in the mountains, he is strong in against the clock, it is 'normal' that he now finds himself at this level."
Sicard's ride has seen Europcar reconsider its GC approach for 2015 and beyond with more responsibility to be given to the Frenchman at stage races.
Sicard rode for Euskaltel-Euskadi until the Basque team withdrew from the peloton at the end of 2013 and was still looking for a 2014 contract in mid-October last year but has rewarded the French WorldTour team since signing a one-year and has become an important rider as the team look to the future.
"It will in any case be much more responsibility within the team," Flickering said of Sicard's future role at the team. "After that, the goal is that Roman continues to find the confidence he had when he was a top young rider.
"He is on the path of reconstruction, and he has at heart to do great things with Pierre Rolland and the rest of the team. He will have a leading status in some races, but also as a first-class team member in others alongside Pierre Rolland."
However Flickinger added that Rolland will continue to be the top GC rider on the team.
"Roman and Pierre have more or less the same profile, but the hierarchy is quite clear to us," he explained. "The leader remains Pierre Rolland, the charismatic leader and the 'patron sportif' remains Thomas Voeckler.
"We also have riders on a slightly different level, with Cyril Gautier, Kevin Reza, Bryan Coquard, while other riders will be revealed for next year."