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French Federation reveals plans for Team Sky "á la française"

Michael Bauge wins the men's sprint ahead of his compatriot Francois Pervis during an exhibition race at the inauguration ceremony of the Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines Velodrome

Michael Bauge wins the men's sprint ahead of his compatriot Francois Pervis during an exhibition race at the inauguration ceremony of the Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines Velodrome (Image credit: AFP)

The French Cycling Federation has revealed its plans to create a WorldTour team at a briefing at the newly-inaugurated Vélodrome National on the outskirts of Paris on Friday.

The idea was first floated publicly in February of last year by FFC president David Lappartient, who expressed his desire to create a “Team Sky à la française.” The Vélodrome National, inaugurated on Thursday, was itself a response to Britain’s recent dominance on the track, and like British Cycling, the FFC plans to use its new headquarters as a springboard towards creating an elite professional road team.

Speaking in Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines on Friday, FFC managing director Olivier Quéguiner outlined plans for the ambitious, multi-disciplinary project, comprising of men’s and women’s teams in road, track, BMX, mountain bike and cyclo-cross.

“The main objective is to participate in the Tour de France and to win the Tour with French riders, but there is also the aim of the Olympic Games, which is maybe a difference to other projects,” Quéguiner said. “We are focusing on athletes in all disciplines.”

The team, which is in the process of looking for a title sponsor, could enter the peloton as early as 2015, although at this point, a start date of 2016 – or later – would appear more likely.

Cyclingnews has been informed that that while the team “will have a French DNA”, the FFC is actively seeking international sponsors, accepting that a single French company may not be able to meet the budget demanded by the project. The planned team would have an annual budget of €25 million, with the intention that €20 million of it would be provided by a commercial sponsor.

Quéguiner said that the FFC has already presented its plans to newly-elected UCI president Brian Cookson and that while immediate WorldTour status is not a specific objective, “it is what we would like.”

The new FFC project could eventually involve a merger with one of the existing French WorldTour teams, and Cyclingnews understands that informal contact has already been made at least one of those teams, FDJ. In October of last year, FDJ announced that it would continue to sponsor Madiot’s team for at least the next three seasons. It is estimated that the French national lottery has committed €30 million to the squad over the next three years.

Quéguiner confirmed that the FFC has already presented its project to the French Professional League and its constituent teams, but suggested that any immediate merger was unlikely, stressing that the FFC project would be a new entity.

“For sure a company like FDJ has received this presentation and has to consider it of course,” Quéguiner said. “At the moment, it’s too early to say that the current FDJ could become this team because we are talking about 2015 and FDJ exists at this moment. It’s going on [next year] and we’re creating something else.”

The FFC is being aided in its search for a sponsor by Sportfive, a sports marketing agency. Sportfive’s Vincent Tong Cuong said that the men’s road team would be “the main driver” of the FFC project, citing the media exposure provided by participation in the UCI WorldTour, estimating that Team Sky generated a global media value of €400 million in 2013.

“We’re not just looking for a sponsor, we’re looking for a partner with whom to build a team and a company of 100 people, including 60 cyclists. A partner who would integrate and take decisions with the FFC,” Tong Cuong said.

News of the FFC’s plans for a professional team follows the inauguration of the Vélodrome National, Paris’ first covered velodrome in 55 years, on Thursday evening. The Vélodrome National serves as the FFC’s new headquarters and Queguiner said that the building had been planned with the new FFC multi-disciplinary team in mind.

“The team’s offices will be at the velodrome and the team was already in mind when we created this,” Quéguiner said. “This is a new company of 100 people. They need space and the space is already there.”