Tour de France race director Christian Prudhomme has pointed to the signing of former stage winner Brice Feillu and ASO’s desire to support French cycling as the principal reasons behind the decision to give Bretagne-Séché Environnement a wildcard invitation to this year’s race.
Established as Bretagne-Jean Floc’h in 2005, the team moved up to Pro Continental level in 2011, but was unsuccessful in its attempts to land an invitation to the Tour until this year. On Tuesday evening, Bretagne-Séché was unveiled as one of the four wildcards for this year’s Tour, along with Cofidis, NetApp-Endura and IAM Cycling.
“The team has reinforced itself well. With the signing of a former stage winner [Brice Feillu], their candidacy became serious,” Prudhomme told AFP. “We felt this was a motivated team, with established riders, who had been a candidate for a long time. And it was also a way for the Tour de France to express its support for French cycling.”
Although ASO’s wildcard policy in recent seasons has been to give priority to French teams, the Breton squad was left disappointed last year. With three French squads (FDJ, Europcar and Ag2r-La Mondiale) already in the WorldTour and thus automatically invited, Bretagne-Séché’s path to the Tour was perhaps more straightforward this time around.
“It’s a great reward for our efforts these past few months,” team president Loïc Drouard told L’Équipe. “In spite of our slender means, we’ve been very shrewd in our recruitment.”
Bretagne-Séché’s most high-profile rider is Brice Feillu, who won a mountain stage at Andorra on his Tour debut in 2009, but has failed to scale such heights since during spells at Vacansoleil, Leopard Trek and Saur-Sojasun. Feillu’s decision to join Bretagne-Séché this season has seen him reunite with his brother Romain, who wore the yellow jersey for a day on the 2008 Tour. The Bretagne-Séché roster also includes former junior world champion Arnaud Gérard and the young Argentinean talent Eduardo Sepulveda, who finished sixth at last week’s Tour de San Luis.
The team collected just four victories in 2013, however, the biggest of which was Jean-Marc Bideau’s win at the 1.2 category Paris-Troyes, and the step up to competing at the Tour de France is a considerable one.
“It’s super for the Bretagne-Séché Environnement team,” directeur sportif Emmanuel Hubert told L’Équipe. “There is a strong group here, one with values. And I know that the team – the riders and the staff alike – will show itself at the 2014 Tour de France. Now it’s up to us to work and get results.”
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Barry Ryan is Head of Features at Cyclingnews. He has covered professional cycling since 2010, reporting from the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and events from Argentina to Japan. His writing has appeared in The Independent, Procycling and Cycling Plus. He is the author of The Ascent: Sean Kelly, Stephen Roche and the Rise of Irish Cycling’s Golden Generation, published by Gill Books.