When FDJ hesitated to renew Kenny Elissonde's contract at the end of the 2016 season, Team Sky made their move. It was an unexpected, somewhat left field signing for the British WorldTour team, who until that point had only registered two Frenchmen on their books since their inception in 2010.
Elissonde, 25, has of course been touted as a promising climber ever since he first surfaced at the junior rankings, but in Team Sky's perceived universe of power over panache, how would the Frenchman – who one could describe as more Riquelme than Ronaldo, fit into a machine refined on consistent efficiency?
Staying at FDJ was the easy option
Until you actually see the 5-foot-5-inch climber in Sky's casual attire the transfer still doesn't quite register, but here he is, striding down the steps at the lobby of the Adelaide Hilton, at the Tour Down Under - his Sky baseball cap tilted to one side, Sky-covered iPhone in one hand and a warm handshake in the other.
"There are some good teams, like FDJ, but I felt that if I didn't make the move now I might never have left. Each year I passed with the team I felt a bit more 'safe' so when this opportunity came to me I had to say 'let's go' because it was a bit, now or never."
A new culture
However, in many senses Team Sky and FDJ are different worlds. Budget, culture, and without any disrespect to the French team, the disparity in quality at the teams is visible too. The question has to be asked: How will an enigmatic 59kg climber fit into a team that that historically signed domesticated rouleurs and turned them into 'Skybots'?
"At FDJ we never raced like that because we maybe weren't able to do that. We had a strong leader but we also had chances to go in breaks, that's true. For me, I used to like the big breaks as I showed on the Angliru in 2013, and then last year in the Vuelta I was in a break and came close to winning another stage.
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Daniel Benson is the Editor in Chief at both Cyclingnews.com and BikePerfect.com. Based in the UK, he has worked within cycling for almost 15 years, and he joined the Cyclingnews team in 2008 as the site's first UK-based Managing Editor. In that time, he has reported on over a dozen editions of the Tour de France, several World Championships, the Tour Down Under, Spring Classics, and the London 2012 Olympic Games. With the help of the excellent editorial team, he runs the coverage on Cyclingnews and has interviewed leading figures in the sport including UCI Presidents and Tour de France winners.
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