Bouygues Telecom team manager Jean-René Bernaudeau has once again insisted that there is little chance of Pierrick Fédrigo leaving the French squad despite its loss of its ProTour licence earlier this week. In an interview with L'Equipe, 2009 Tour de France stage-winner Fédrigo had voiced his desire to leave the team he's been with since 2005 despite having a year left on his contract. He indicated that Bouygues's loss of its ProTour licence enabled him to consider other offers, but Bernaudeau has denied this is the case and maintains Fédrigo has been "badly advised".
Speaking to the Ouest France newspaper, Bernaudeau explained: "I have been advised by the UCI and by my lawyer, who is categoric on this, that contracts are not linked to existence of ProTour licences but to the teams themselves. Pierrick must therefore honour the last year of his contract, and that's all there is to it. We've discussed it together and been very clear about it. In just the same way, I can't dismiss all our riders who have a year left on their contracts under the pretext that we aren't in the ProTour any longer... This isn't football. Pierrick can't leave without my agreement. And up to today no team has talked to me about buying him out of his contract or even wanted to discuss that."
Caisse d'Epargne are reported to be very interested in signing the 30-year-old Frenchman, and Saxo Bank are also said to be keen on him. But Fédrigo admits he's had no firm offers. Contacted by Ouest France, Fédrigo commented: "I don't want to start an argument and talk about all this as I'm on holiday. I've already had my knuckles rapped after what was said before."
Bernaudeau said that during a conversation with his rider, Fédrigo had denied telling L'Equipe he wanted to leave the team. "Once again I will say that he is under contract and that contract is not linked to membership of the ProTour, that's an error of interpretation. Pierrick has values, he's well educated. But I think he's been badly advised in all this."
Bouygues directeur sportif Didier Rous believes the incident has blown up simply because Bernaudeau and Fédrigo put off talking to each other for too long. "Pierrick has been influenced by certain people, but he and Jean-René share the blame for all this. They should have talked to each other earlier instead of avoiding each other. It's a shame."
The focus for the French team now will be on finding a sponsor to replace Bouygues Telecom, who are pulling out at the end of 2010.
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Peter Cossins has written about professional cycling since 1993 and is a contributing editor to Procycling. He is the author of The Monuments: The Grit and the Glory of Cycling's Greatest One-Day Races (Bloomsbury, March 2014) and has translated Christophe Bassons' autobiography, A Clean Break (Bloomsbury, July 2014).
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