Coquard to leave Direct Energie at end of 2017

Bryan Coquard has turned down a new contract with Direct Energie, confirming he is looking for a new team to give "fresh impetus" to his career.

The 25-year-old Frenchman turned professional with Jean-René Bernaudeau's team in 2013, after coming through its feeder set-up Vendée U. The team, then known as Europcar, moved up to WorldTour level in 2014 but has since dropped back down to Pro Continental level.

Coquard, a sprinter, has picked up 32 pro victories during his time with the team, and has grown in stature to rub shoulders with the world's best, missing out on a first Tour de France victory last year to Marcel Kittel by the tightest of margins. However he has refused to extend his stay with the French team, forcing the team to confirm the news.

"Bryan Coquard, the leader of our sprint set-up, has informed us this month of his decision to not renew his contract with the team, which is due to expire at the end of 2017," read a short statement from the Direct Energie team, which published a Q&A interview with Coquard.

Coquard doesn't state that he wants to move to a WorldTour team but outlines his desire for a change of scene and a new challenge.

"This decision was not an easy one to take, but I want to set out my position early enough in the season so as not to harm the team. Of course, I made sure to inform Jean-René Bernaudeau straight away, along with the directeurs sportifs, the riders, who are my colleagues and friends, and, of course, the managers of the Direct Energie company – they put their confidence in me for two years," said Coquard.

"I want to experience something else, and to give fresh impetus to my career. I have spent several years here, from Vendée U through to Direct Energie, the team has given me a lot and I hope to have given something back to the team, too. Now, I feel that the quest for performance, which has always motivated me, should continue with a change of team, with a new challenge to take on."

Tour de France under discussion

Coquard suggested that his decision to leave will have an impact on his race programme, and stopped short of confirming his participation in this year's Tour de France, where he would surely represent the team's brightest hope of a first stage win since 2012. 

"That is all being discussed – nothing is set in stone at the moment. I remain at the disposal of the sporting staff to give my all for Team Direct Energie, but I'm aware that my departure might change the situation," he said. 

"We will see about the races further down the line, but in principle I will be there in yellow and black from next week on the roads of the Belgium Tour. The French national championships are also a very important target for me."

Coquard hopes to end his time with the team on good terms. He came close to leaving towards the end of 2015, as Bernaudeau scrambled to secure the future of the team in the wake of Europcar's withdrawal of sponsorship, but remained loyal and patient, despite offers coming in from WorldTour outfits.

"I really want to give my all, and for everything to end as best as possible," said Coquard. "I want to thank Jean-René as well as all the members of the team and everyone at Direct Energie. I have my heart set on proving myself worthy of their support and of our shared friendship. This shared adventure, and the numerous victories achieved in the Vendée jersey, will always mean something to me."

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