Bryan Coquard (Europcar) enjoyed a solid first season in the professional ranks as the 21-year-old Frenchman netted six victories and eight second place finishes in 2013. "But no need to be ashamed of those second places because I was beaten by really good riders like Cavendish, Démare and Bouhanni. It does mean, however, that I will work harder to get that edge in the future," he told DirectVelo.
After a silver medal at the 2012 Olympic Games in the omnium, Coquard signed a three-year contract with Team Europcar. "I had a good first year. There were some deceptions but all in all it was a good year because I didn't think I would already be at this level as a neo-pro. I finished on the podium 16 times which shows that I can be consistent all season long. That gives me great confidence for the future."
Coquard kickstarted his season with two victories at the Etoile de Bessèges in February. "Those wins are a great memory. Another great moment was beating Marcel Kittel in the Tour de Picardie. If you see what he did in the Tour de France afterwards, and that I was able to beat him, it is the best moment of the season."
For a team built around climbers like Pierre Rolland and puncheurs like Thomas Voeckler, having a sprinter on the team means things had to change.
"Having a sprinter like me is new for the team and we all learned throughout the season to get a sprint train running. Next year things will change again if we possibly move up to the WorldTour. I will have to be mentally strong because I might win less in 2014. The idea is to learn, learn, learn [in the big races] and then take advantage of it and win those prestigious races in the future. I hope to be the team's leader more often next year. It does, however, bring along a lot of pressure, especially at age 21."
This year Coquard started his season on French soil in the cold conditions in the Etoile de Bessèges, but his early season schedule will change for 2014. "I will not do Etoile or Langkawi [where he won two stages this year] in 2014. My season starts in the Middle East with the Tour of Qatar and the Tour of Oman. In March I ride Paris-Nice. Milan-San Remo is also on the programme because that is a race I can do well in, in the future. And Gent-Wevelgem, which I really liked this season, is also on the list."
Coquard's big goal in 2014 is the Tour de France. "I admit that I didn't have to think long when the team first offered this. It will be a dream. Of course it makes me a bit scared but I do think I can do this race in my second year as a pro cyclist, and the team management has full confidence in me. This winter we are going to train a lot on the sprint train to get the automatisms going. I did beat Marcel Kittel once before," Coquard said with a laugh.
"I have to keep my two feet firmly on the ground. There is still a long way to go before I have the palmares like Mark Cavendish has," the silver medallist at the 2012 U23 Road Race World Championships concluded.