Usually decided after the French championship, the FDJ line-up for the Tour de France has been revealed in advance with Thibaut Pinot unsurprisingly leading the group of nine riders after he completed the race in third place overall last year.
His teammates for the 102nd Grande Boucle will be Sébastien Chavanel, William Bonnet, Matthieu Ladagnous, Arnaud Démare, Steve Morabito, Alexandre Geniez, Jérémy Roy and Benoît Vaugrenard.
"Some years we have good reasons for waiting for the French championship, other years we don't and that's the case now," team manager Marc Madiot told Cyclingnews. "In any case, the remaining nine riders have to be part of the 13 names written on the entry form. By regulation, it's not enough to be the French champion to get a late start at the Tour."
Therefore, the non-selected riders are Arthur Vichot, Anthony Roux, Mickaël Delage and Laurent Pichon. Arnold Jeannesson had already withdrawn from the potential starters' list during the Dauphiné due to a lack of form and motivation following the health troubles he encountered during spring.
Vaugrenard, 33, makes his comeback at the Tour for the first time since 2010, which is the last time the race started in the Netherlands (Rotterdam). A former French champion for individual time trial (in 2007), he's expected to play an important role in the team time trial held right on his home soil between Vannes and Plumelec in Brittany (stage 9). It's also an exercise in which Geniez, ninth overall at this year's Giro d'Italia, excels.
Vichot had raced the past four Tours de France for FDJ but he was the only one of the 44 French participants forced to pull out last year and his first half of the 2015 season has been hampered by a cytomegalovirus.
"We talked at length with my brother Yvon and with Arthur as well yesterday and we decided he'd better give it a miss this year," Madiot explained. "He had a bad experience last. It wouldn't help him to add one more so we'll play safe and we'll save him for the end of the season. He's able to deliver in the one-day World Tour races. There isn't only the Tour de France on our agenda!
"We'll go to the Tour de France with one clear leader: Pinot," Madiot added. "When circumstances will allow it, we'll also race for Démare. It's kinda hard to draw plans for this year's Tour. Firstly, it'll be a question of coming out of Holland and Belgium in one piece, surviving the wind and the pitfalls. After stage 4, we'll have a clearer vision of the situation. If the race is quiet, we'll back Démare, if it's tense for the leaders, we'll put all our eggs in one basket for Pinot."
Pinot's third place and best young rider position last year have raised a lot of expectations in the host country of the world's biggest race. But Madiot prefers to adopt a low profile ahead of the Tour.
"We'd be happy with the top 10 and a stage victory," he said. "Like every year, there won't be awards for the 22 teams in contention but sometimes we get nice surprises like last year and I'm hoping for something like that to happen again this year."
FDJ for the Tour de France: Thibaut Pinot, Sébastien Chavanel, William Bonnet, Matthieu Ladagnous, Arnaud Démare, Steve Morabito, Alexandre Geniez, Jérémy Roy and Benoît Vaugrenard
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