AG2R Citroën team manager Vincent Lavenu has admitted he would be interested in signing Julian Alaphilippe as a Tour de France team leader for 2022, as he works on the long-term development of the French WorldTour team.
AG2R Citroën have lost Romain Bardet to Team DSM and signed Greg Van Avermaet, Bob Jungels, Ben O’Connor and Lillian Calmejan but lack a Tour de France contender and headline French rider for 2021. 25-year-old Benoit Cosnefroy is a huge talent but Alaphilippe is in his peak, is a household name in France and could opt to target overall success at the Tour de France in 2022.
Alaphilippe’s contract with Deceuninck-QuickStep ends next season, making him an obvious target for Lavenu.
"We have always been attentive of any opportunities", Lavenu cryptically told French newspaper Sud Ouest after the team revealed its 20201 roster and new race clothing on Thursday.
Like every team manager already working on long-term plans for 2022 and beyond, Lavenu knows that Alaphilippe could be a strategic signing. However with Alaphilippe under contract for 2021, he is cautious of being accused of tapping up a rider. Yet he is also keen to show his interest.
"You’ve first got to check that they’re on the market, but that should be the case. We won’t hold back on seeing what our chances are,” he told Sud Ouest.
“He's a rider that people really like, one of the best in the world. If you have a partner of the calibre of Citroën, there’s no reason not to try. But there’s time for that…”
Deceuninck-QuickStep manager Patrick Lefevere will no doubt call out the early transfer talk, as he recently did after reports that UAE Team Emirates are interested in signing João Almeida. However the experienced Belgian team manager knows he has to secure the long-term future of his team if he is to continue to retain his leading riders.
The Belgian team has played a key role in Alaphilippe’s success in recent years but the short duration of rider contracts mean informal transfer talk never really ceases in professional cycling. UCI rules state that riders and teams can only announce new contracts after August 1. That does not stop informal talks with rider agents or private pre-contract agreements.
Sud Ouest suggests Alaphilippe will want to decide his team for 2022 some time in the spring and that Lefevere may opt to focus on building a Grand Tour team around Remco Evenepoel.
The arrival of French car brand Citroën will reportedly give Lavenu a budget of 23 million Euro for 2021, with perhaps more available to sign Alaphilippe. As world champion and global star of the sport, Alaphilippe could demand around five million Euro per season. He confirmed his current deal with Deceuninck-QuickStep during the summer of 2019, saying it was for two years.
Alaphilippe has recently admitted that the Tour de France is the race he would most like to add to his palmarès, though he stopped short of suggesting that he would target the general classification in 2021.
Alaphilippe had long made a goal of the world title before landing the rainbow jersey in Imola in September. In an interview with Eurosport’s Bistrot Vélo show on Monday, he was asked to name the victory he now coveted above all others.
“Now after winning the World Championships, for sure I’d really like to win the Tour de France," Alaphilippe said.
"The two races that always made me dream were the World Championships and the Tour de France. Of course, I want to win Monuments and Classics but if I could only pick one, it would be the Tour.”
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