Time is a key component for any rider bedding into a new team, particularly when it is a sprinter and his lead-out train. Bryan Coquard believes that it is only a matter of time before he and his Vital Concept Club lead-out have it nailed.
Two races into the season, Coquard has not yet taken his first victory for his new team but he says that he has seen progress between his debut at the Sharjah Tour at the end of January and Etoile de Besseges earlier this month.
"There has been a lot of motivation for the sprint and I have had very good lead outs. It's very good. It's a new team, not everything is perfect but I think that it is very good for the first year," Coquard told Cyclingnews at the Tour of Oman. "I think that with one or two months… I think that maybe we will have the best lead-out [we've had] in Oman.
"I think I saw a lot of good progress in Besseges. I don't know for the moment, but I think that we have a very good lead-out in Oman."
The jet-setting has not made for the easiest start to the season and Coquard admits to not being at his best at Etoile de Besseges. The team had hoped to send the 25-year old to the Dubai Tour but they failed to get a wild card, forcing him into a return journey to France with little time to adjust to the time difference. With a few days rest between Bessege and Oman, the Frenchman is feeling more confident with his sights set on three possible opportunities for victory.
"Normally, the first programme I would have done Sharjah Tour, Oman and maybe Dubai Tour but we didn't get a wild card. And, for the first time, we had television coverage for Besseges and the team told me that it was good for the sponsors and for our new team," he explained. "The difference in the temperature and the jet-lag made it difficult in Besseges. I didn't have any good legs but now it's nice to be back here.
"On paper, you have two opportunities for the sprinters but we went for a recon yesterday. Normally it is two sprints but if I have good legs then it is possible for stage 4. I think that Kristoff won it last year. It is difficult but maybe stages 2, 3 and 4 are possible if I have the good legs. I think that it is better for me because it is more difficult than Dubai and it is better for my characteristics."
Missing the Tour and focusing on Amstel
When Jerome Pineau and his Vital Concept Club team were unveiled, they had high hopes of what they might be able to achieve. Their hopes were dealt a blow when they missed out on wild cards for two of their big targets, Paris-Nice and the Tour de France. It took a few days for Coquard to get over the disappointment, but he's now looking forward to a relatively full Classics programme over the coming months.
"The first time not having a wild card for the Tour de France is difficult. But, after one week, it is ok," he said. "It's the first year of a new team and we will go to all of the Classics. Maybe no Waregem but most of the Classics and that's very good. We go in Amstel Gold race. It's a good objective for me. I think that it's a good programme but with Paris-Nice and the Tour de France it would have been perfect. We will try next year and if the team can do a good season then I think that it will be ok next season. It's a start."
Coquard's main target will be the Amstel Gold Race, where he just missed the podium in 2016. "I finished fourth there two years ago and it is my big objective. Before then, I will do the Tour of Flanders and Gent-Wevelgem, but for the first part of the season [my goal] is the Amstel Gold Race.
"I have long had emotion for Amstel because I finished second in under 23 at the World Championships in Valkenburg. I love this race and it's good for my characteristics."