2009 SUMMARY: With just five victories all season, last year would have been a horror show for Ag2r-La Mondiale if it hadn’t been for the eight days that Rinaldo Nocentini spent in the Tour’s yellow jersey. For smaller sponsors such as Ag2r and La Mondiale, eight days in that kind of spotlight are well worth a year’s backing. ‘Noce’ apart, the other strong performer was Irish champion Nicolas Roche, who rode well going into the Tour and shone consistently throughout it. Meanwhile, injury and ill-fortune troubled the team’s bigger names, such as Cyril Dessel and Vladimir Efimkin.
LOOKING AHEAD: Team boss Lavenu would probably settle for a similar showing to ‘09, even considering the lack of victories. That negative was more than balanced out by Nocentini’s long stint in Tour yellow, especially for a team with French backers on all sides. Lavenu will definitely be wanting more from his bigger names though, particularly Dessel, whose last victory at the 2008 Tour is looking a long way back now.
Yet whatever the individual failings in this team are, someone tends to pull out something special when Lavenu needs it most.
THE LINE-UP: Outbound are a lot of riders who’ve failed to make a mark with Ag2r and veteran Stéphane Goubert, who’s been Lavenu’s most dependable rider. New blood includes French champion Dimitri Champion, the highly rated Ben Gastauer and the rapid but unproven Kristof Goddaert. The team’s 2010 roster looks weaker in terms of experience, but has more winning potential
in the ranks.
One to watch
Maxime Bouet, who’s now 23, came onto Ag2r’s radar when he rode for their feeder team in Chambéry at 18. He later moved to Marseille’s illustrious VC Pomme. That led to a deal with Agritubel and a first Tour appearance last year, where he came a solid 70th. He also showed his stage race potential by taking first in Portugal’s Tour of the Alentejo in 2009.