The French season kicks off this coming Sunday at the GP Marseillaise, where new Cofidis recruit Julien Simon is likely to be among the favourites. The 28-year-old puncheur joined Cofidis after five seasons with Sojasun, the last of them very disappointing as Simon went through it winless and latterly focused on finding himself a new contract after his sponsor decided to pull the plug.
Although there was some interest from WorldTour teams in Simon, who won five races in 2012 when he emerged as one of the best French riders in the bunch, the Breton opted to follow four of his Sojasun teammates to Cofidis. They weren't exactly flush with success last year either, mustering just 10 victories, but none at all at WorldTour level. Consequently, a winning start for Simon on Sunday would be very good news for his new employers as well.
Simon says his preparation for the new season has gone well and he can't wait to put his form to the test. "If I look at the figures, I'm doing very well with my weight and everything looks good in terms of power output as well, which is a good sign. I want to celebrate a victory as quick as I can. My first peak in form is going to come very soon, from mid-February on, so I can't wait to get going," he told Velochrono.fr.
He certainly comes into the new season better prepared than last year, when doubts about Sojasun's survival provided an unwanted complication. Only once he had signed an agreement with Cofidis at the end of last August did Simon feel that he could focus entirely on racing once again.
"It needs everything to fall into place for me to have a really good year. But if I do get on an upward spiral and in so doing I can boost the team's drive for victories then so much the better," said Simon, who admits Cofidis' bosses have signed him to win races. "The good thing is that Cofidis are guaranteed entry to some good WorldTour races right through the season."
Cofidis have already received confirmation of their participation in Paris-Nice, the Critérium du Dauphiné and the Tour de France. The French squad is also likely to get invites to the Vuelta a España and the Tour of Catalonia, where Simon made his name with two wins in 2012.
His hope is that he can rediscover the form he had in 2012. "The end was very difficult with Sojasun, although I've got plenty of good memories of the time I spent there, but I want to regain the level I had in 2012, when I achieved so much. I was really knocked back by events in 2013 and needed to recover from that a bit. But now I'm keen to get my season going with Cofidis. I feel really motivated once again."