It had been more than seven months since French team AG2R La Mondiale had won a race, but on Friday, May 18, 2012, the curse was finally lifted as Sébastien Hinault and Sylvain Georges scored two wins in one day, on two different continents. Hinault, one of the team's veterans, sprinted to victory in stage 3 of the Circuit de Lorraine, and just hours later, at the Tour of California, Georges soloed into the finish of Big Bear Lake in stage 6.
Of the 18 World Tour teams the UCI registered for this season, the outfit directed by Vincent Lavenu was the only one not to have had a victory since the beginning of the season. The whole squad's morale had hit rock bottom.
"It's the end of a drought," a relieved Lavenu told Velochrono. "We had a lot of physical problems, and there was a feeling of frustration. To finally get these first wins means an enormous relief for us. We were waiting for that to happen for a long time and we deserved it."
AG2R has had several difficult season beginnings in the last few years. In 2011, three months of drought separated Anthony Ravard's victory at the Etoile de Bessèges in February, and John Gadret's stage 11 win at the Giro d'Italia in May. Psychologically, it is difficult for a team to overcome a long-ongoing set of disappointments.
"At a certain point, there was a certain state of mind that took over, as if the riders didn't believe in a victory any more. There was a psychological blockage. They were stressed out. We really asked ourselves when we'd be able to be successful again," Lavenu admitted.
"We were miserable, the team's riders, the staff, the partners. We tried not to show how much we longed for that win. Now, the order of things has been re-established. I hope that this will create a new dynamic and that the others will follow the example."
Meanwhile, bad luck has returned upon the team, as Anthony Ravard has been diagnosed with a broken collarbone following a crash at the Circuit de Lorraine on Friday, the same stage that his teammate Hinault won. "We have to take it as it comes," added a philosophical Lavenu. "It's the fate of the race. At the beginning of the year, we also suffered several crashes. But we didn't trade in a victory for a fracture! There's nothing we can do about it..."