Bryan Coquard has admitted that his relationship with the Direct Energie team has become strained since he told them he wouldn't renew his contract, revealing that there's doubt over his selection for the Tour de France.
The 25-year-old sprinter came turned pro with Jean-René Bernaudeau's team, having come through the ranks of its Vendée U feeder set-up, but his rise in stature in the past couple of seasons have led him to seek a move to a WorldTour team.
A couple of weeks on from turning down the new contract, Coquard collected his 33rd win for the team on the opening day of the Belgium Tour, pointing his little finger to his temple as he crossed the line in dedication to Bernaudeau.
"This victory means a lot to me, especially since I am currently on a difficult footing with my employer Direct Energy since I announced that I did not renew my contract," said Coquard, according to Het Nieuwsblad.
"This was my response with the pedals. I made this special gesture for Bernaudeau, who has still been a second father to me. I really hope that, despite my decision not to stay, he let's me ride the Tour. I'd like to thank him for his confidence in me with a stage victory there."
Coquard came agonisingly close to claiming a first Tour stage last year, finishing second to Marcel Kittel in the tightest of photo finishes on stage 4. A prolific winner of smaller races, especially on French soil, it was a moment that suggested he now belongs with the world's best.
Bernaudeau prizes loyalty and it will be hard to see one of his brightest talents, whom he has helped develop, move on, though Coquard insists he has been perfectly straight about what it is a difficult topic.
"It was not easy to make this decision. Not for him, not for me," said Coquard.
"I have played fair. Bernaudeau insisted that he receive an answer quickly – I could have waited [for other offers to come in]. I really hope that our joint story finishes on a good note. He has given me a lot over the past five years."