News feature, January 10, 2007
The 2008 Cofidis Team was presented to the – predominantly French – media yesterday, in a low-key affair in the rather grand setting of the Mini Palais, a stone's throw away from Paris' Avenue des Champs Elysees where the Tour de France finishes each July. Cyclingnews' Ben Atkins travelled to the French capital to get the scoop on one of the country's top teams.
Presentations were given by Cofidis' Director General Benoit Coqueval; President of Cofidis Competition Thierry Vittu, and the Cofidis team's General Manager Eric Boyer. Before Boyer himself introduced various members of the team and support staff.
Just eight of the team's roster of thirty riders were present, but represented a cross-section of the team's aims and philosophy. Established French riders: rouleur supreme Stéphane Augé and team captain Sylvain Chavanel were presented alongside Belgians Maxime Monfort and classics leader Nick Nuyens. Adding their experience will be new signings: multiple French road and time trial champion Florent Brard and baroudeur Samuel Dumoulin, acquired from Caisse d'Epargne and Ag2r-Prévoyance respectively.
To emphasise Cofidis' commitment to the future of French cycling, Alexandre Blain and Julien El Farès – two of the six neo-pros signed this year – were also present.
Cofidis was both shocked and embarrassed by Christian Moreni's positive dope test, forcing the team's withdrawal from the Tour de France last year. Consequently, Eric Boyer's speech – as well as laying out the team's sporting aims – emphasised that all of the results obtained by Cofidis riders this year will be entirely down to hard work in training in strict respect of the rules of good conduct, ethics and morals. To back up its intentions to race clean, Cofidis – like many other teams – has an internal system of blood and urine tests.
All three men emphasised three particular words during their speeches: travaille, vrai and propre ('Work, true and clean').
As well as sporting success, Boyer is emphasising the importance of the team riding together as a unified body. A victory for the team is a victory for the individual, but if that victory cannot be gained then it is better to race properly, with spirit and, as he emphasised again, to engage in vrai cyclisme, true cycling. Cofidis has committed to the team until the end of 2009, and the hope is that if it is to be the last two years of l'Equipe Cofidis, then they will be two beautiful years.
2007 to 2008
Boyer looked back on an otherwise successful 2007 which – Tour de France aside – contained many highlights. Some of those mentioned included a strong classics campaign with the team built around Belgian Nick Nuyens, Britain's Bradley Wiggins' victory in the prologue of the Dauphiné Libéré (Wiggins has since moved on to Team High Road), and he team's overall performance in the season long Coupe de France competition. The Tour itself was not glossed over however, as both Augé's and Chavanel's time in the polka-dot climbers jersey was celebrated.
Objectives for 2008 mirror those of 2007. Once again a strong team will be aiming at the northern classics, led by Nuyens and Dane Frank Hoj, but ably supported by new signing Florent Brard, who was top Frenchman at Paris-Roubaix in 2006. Boyer acknowledged that while the team is very international in flavour (being made up of 19 French and 11 foreigners), it is important to emphasise that it is very much a French team. For this reason, two of the teams biggest targets are both the individual and team classifications of the Coupe de France, and of course, the Tour de France.
While acknowledging that the team still doesn't have a Grand Tour contender – something specifically named as a later objective – it is important for the team to make its presence felt in these races. As this year, stage wins will be targeted, as well as the general aim of getting riders into the leaders' jerseys early on – specifically, and most importantly of course, the maillot jaune of the Tour de France.
Not to be forgotten is Cofidis' four-man track team – Didier Henriette's name being added to the established trio of Arnaud Tournant, Mickael Bourgain and Kevin Sireau. Despite the fact that none of the road riders will ever compete alongside these bulky strongmen, the fact that they are all team-mates nevertheless was emphasised by them staging interviews with each other on video. None of the track team was present as they are currently preparing for the third round of he track World Cup in Los Angeles. As Boyer stated, the track team exists purely to allow these riders to focus on getting into the French national team, and so on to compete in the Olympic Games.
The last member of the Cofidis team to be introduced was new "rider" Tim, a cartoon cyclist (who looks a lot like Samuel Dumoulin in this correspondent's opinion – although all the riders have their own animated alter-ego). It's not sure whether Tim is a classics or Grand Tour rider at this stage, so in the meantime he will become the team's mascot. After that lighter moment, the tone turned more serious, as Boyer thanked the sponsor Cofidis for it's continuing support despite the events in the Tour de France. Instead of taking their money away, Cofidis have extended their commitment to 2009, which the entire team is very grateful for.
Cofidis' racing strip will be virtually identical to last year's, being all red with a white panel on the back of the jersey – and of course the yellow sun logo. They will continue to ride Time frames, equipped with Campagnolo components and Fulcrum wheels.
The team's road season – like many others – starts at the end of this month at the Tour Down Under, the first event of the 2008 ProTour.
Cofidis' 2008 roster: Stéphane Augé (Fra), Alexandre Blain (Fra), Florent Brard (Fra), Mickaël Buffaz (Fra), Sylvain Chavanel (Fra), Kevin De Weert (Bel), Jean Eudes Demaret (Fra), Hervé Duclos-Lassalle (Fra), Samuel Dumoulin (Fra), Leonardo Duque (Col), Julien El Farès (Fra), Bingen Fernández (Spa), Nicolas Hartmann (Fra), Maryan Hary (Fra), Mathieu Heijboer (Ned), Frank Hoj (Den), Yann Huguet (Fra), Sébastien Minard (Fra), Amaël Moinard (Fra), David Moncoutié (Fra), Maxime Monfort (Bel), Damien Monier (Fra), Nick Nuyens (Bel), Sébastien Portal (Fra), Staf Scheirlinckx (Bel), Rein Taaramae (Est), Tristan Valentin (Fra), Rik Verbrugghe (Bel), Romain Villa (Fra) and Steve Zampieri (Swi).
A full listing of the team can be found on the Cyclingnews teams database.