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First RadioShack-Nissan gathering concludes in Belgium

Maxime Monfort was one of 26 riders on hand at the first gathering of the 2012 RadioShack-Nissan team, which took place over three days in Francorchamps, Belgium this week.

The new squad has formed as a result of the merger between the existing RadioShack and Leopard Trek outfits. Monfort, who rode for Leopard Trek in 2011, explained that the gathering was not so much a training camp or planning meeting as a chance for riders from the two teams to get to know one another.

“One of the goals of this first stage is to unite the two groups through different activities,” Monfort told La Dernière Heure. “While we haven’t jumped on our bikes at all, we did take a big, long hike together in the forest.”

The riders only learned of the surprise merger during the Vuelta a España, but over the remaining weeks of the season, Monfort took every opportunity he could to acquaint himself with his future teammates from RadioShack.

“Since the confirmation of the fusion of the two teams, we have spoken a bit on the last few races of the season to such an extent that I knew practically all of my new teammates,” he said.

The move to RadioShack-Nissan also sees Monfort ride under the tutelage of his fellow countryman Johan Bruyneel for the first time. “He had been depicted to me as being very firm and authoritarian in his management, but I have to say that up to now the atmosphere has been very cool and relaxed at this first meeting,” Monfort noted.

Monfort’s early season plan is to build towards the Ardennes classics by riding the Paris-Nice, Criterium International and the Tour of the Basque Country, but the Walloon’s avowed ambition is to line up at the Tour de France, which gets underway close to home in Liège.

Although competition for places alongside Fränk and Andy Schleck in July will be fierce, Monfort is hopeful that his sixth place finish at the Vuelta a España is proof of his potential over three weeks.

“With the core that’s there, places will be at a premium,” Monfort said. “But if I’m at my level, I should be at the start of the Grande Boucle. Still, you’ll need to be up there over the first part of the season to stamp your ticket for the big rendezvous in July.”

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