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Rein Taaramäe (Cofidis, Le Credit en Ligne) wins Estonia's Elite men's time trial championship.

Cofidis, Le Credit en Ligne

Established: 1997

2009 SUMMARY: There tends to be a loser among the French teams each year and this time it was Cofidis, who had little luck at the Tour. At least the Vuelta must have been some consolation, since David Moncoutié won a stage and retained his King of the Mountains title from 2008. The other big plus came in the form of young Estonian Rein Taaramäe, who finished third in Romandy and could have won a stage at the Vuelta if he’d read the stage profile more closely and avoided blowing up on the steep climb to the Xorret de Catí. Also worthy of note is Julien El Farès, who took good wins at Tirreno and the Tour of Wallonia.

LOOKING AHEAD: Eric Boyer is staying faithful to his philosophy of focusing mainly on French talent rather than buying in proven winners. Look through the roster and there’s no one you’d expect to pick up more than a handful of wins, even in a good year. Boyer will want to see more from his big names at the Tour, particularly Amaël Moinard, who disappointed after having shown much promise in 2008.

THE LINE-UP: Most of the riders brought in will take a couple of seasons to find their pro racing legs, bar Rémy Cusin and Kevyn Ista, who have been well blooded at Agritubel. Most of those leaving have either had their chance and not produced, such as Alexandre Usov, or retired, such as Florent Brard and Bingen Fernández. The latter hangs up his wheels after eight seasons of service with the French team.

ONE TO WATCH: Belgian recruit Kevyn Ista may not be an immediate solution to the gulf left by Nick Nuyens and Sylvain Chavanel, but the 2006 winner of the U23 Tour of Flanders looks to be a canny signing. He first turned pro in 2005 for RAGT. When they folded, he returned to  the elite ranks with VC Roubaix. He rejoined the pro ranks with Agritubel in 2008 and progressed again in 2009, finishing runner-up in the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.

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