Jérôme Coppel (Saur-Sojasun) is targeting a top 15 place at July’s Tour de France. The young French hope impressed in finishing 5th at last year’s Critérium du Dauphiné and in 2011 he will have the opportunity to exhibit his talents on the sport’s biggest stage.
“It’s true that I’m progressing every year,” Coppel told L’Équipe. “Now I’m more of a climber-rouleur than a rouler-climber and I think that I can make the top 15 in my first full Tour.”
Coppel made his Tour debut as a 22-year-old with Française des Jeux in 2009 but abandoned the race during the 12th stage. After a first campaign with Saur-Sojasun in 2010, the fourth-year professional will lead the team in its first Tour outing.
“I feel capable of it, they have confidence in me on this team,” he said. “We don’t have big names but we’re closely-knit and that’s what I’m looking for. Furthermore, it’s only by riding the Tour as a leader that I’ll be able to see where I’m at.
“I’m giving myself another three years to progress well. At 27, 28 years of age, I’ll be capable of doing great things.”
Coppel gave one of the first signs of his potential at last year’s Paris-Nice, where he finished in 10th place. This time around, however, he will instead ride the Ruta del Sol and Tour of Murcia, as Saur-Sojasun were not invited to the race to the sun this time around. They lost out to the Bretagne-Schuller team.
“At first, it was a bit of a shock,” Coppel said of his team’s exclusion. “But in any case, it’s better to go to the Tour and not to Paris-Nice than the opposite.”
Meanwhile, Saur-Sojasun manager Stéphane Heulot echoed his star rider’s high aspirations for the Tour.
“It’s not a reward, we’re going there to shine,” Heulot explained. As well as Coppel, former Tour de France stage winner Jimmy Casper will also be hoping to make an impact, while Jimmy Engoulvent, Ludovic Turpin and Sébastien Joly will bring a wealth of experience to proceedings.
However, Heulot acknowledged that come July, all eyes will be on his young leader Coppel. “I still don’t know what his limits are,” he said.
For Cyclingnews’ gallery from the 2011 Saur-Sojasun team presentation, click here.