Groupama-FDJ sign seven neo-pros to refresh 2023 squad

New Groupama-FDJ recruit Lenny Martinez (left) with Thibaut Pinot at the Tour of the Alps
New Groupama-FDJ recruit Lenny Martinez (left) with Thibaut Pinot at the Tour of the Alps (Image credit: Tim de WaeleGetty Images)

Groupama-FDJ are set to revamp their squad for the 2023 season with the announcement of the signing of seven neo-pros from the Groupama-FDJ Continental development squad.

The French squad has become well-known for promoting young, internally-developed riders in recent years, with eight men making the jump to the WorldTour since 2019 including Jake Stewart, Kevin Geniets, and Lars van den Berg.

Now, following the promotions of Lewis Askey in January and Paul Penhoët on August 1, the list of Groupama-FDJ Continental alumni is set to grow further.

Heading up the list is 19-year-old Giro della Valle d'Aosta champion Lenny Martinez. The teenager, who hails from Cannes, also finished on the podium of the U23 Giro d'Italia and took a top 10 at the Classic Alpes-Maritimes this season and is a highly rated talent.

"I'm very happy to join the WorldTour team. I will have completed all the stages with the Groupama-FDJ team, after the junior programme and the Conti, so it's a continuity," Martinez said. "I have learned a lot this year, especially about teamwork, whether it is helping my leaders or being a leader myself and taking advantage of the work of the teammates.

"I am a climber and I like difficult races with a series of climbs and a fast pace. I won the general classification in Valle d'Aosta this year, which validated the good results I had in the mountains. I was also able to compete in several races with the WorldTour team and to be in contact with Thibaut Pinot and David Gaudu. I hope to be able to help David Gaudu in the mountains in the coming seasons. He rides hard – it's motivating."

Fellow teenager Romain Grégoire also makes the step up. The 19-year-old is the reigning Liège-Bastogne-Liège U23 champion and won a stage and the points jersey at the U23 Giro.

Twenty-year-old Samuel Watson will make it three Britons at Groupama-FDJ next season. He won Gent-Wevelgem U23 in the spring and also has stages at the Course de la Paix and Tour Alsace to his name, though he'll perhaps be best known for finishing second to Mark Cavendish at the British National Championships back in June.

New Zealanders Reuben Thompson (21) and Laurence Pithie (20) are next on the list of recruits. Thompson won the Giro della Valle d'Aosta in 2021 and finished second to Martinez this season, also coming fifth at the U23 Giro, while Pithie triumphed at the Baltic Chain Tour last year and has two wins in 2022.

Le Triptyque des Monts et Châteaux champion Enzo Paleni (20) and Italian U23 road champion Lorenzo Germani (20) complete the seven-man list of promotions to the WorldTour squad from a successful development programme which saw 10 of its 13 riders win a race in 2022.

"To bring eight riders from the Conti to the WorldTour is an extremely logical choice," said Groupama-FDJ manager Marc Madiot. "We have a development team with an exceptional crop, so it was only natural to recruit them as a priority. The Conti model, which we implemented in 2018, has proven itself.

"The young athletes train and live together, have access to quality performance facilities and can switch to the WorldTour team in certain races. When we recruit them to the WorldTour team, we know they are ready, and they know what they are getting into. They already have the DNA of our team, and they want to evolve with us."

The seven signings represent a major roster refresh for Groupama-FDJ, who are now set to boast 10 riders aged 22 or younger in the squad for 2023.

Of the team's current roster, nine of the 13 men aged 30 or over are out of contract this year. That list includes Ignatas Konovalovas, Jacopo Guarnieri, Sebastien Reichenbach, and the retiring Anthony Roux. Several of the older riders on the squad are expected to move on to make room for the new recruits.

"Next year, I think we will break records in terms of average age," Madiot said. "We were at a crossroads for the team, there was an opportunity in front of us, we had to take it."

As Groupama-FDJ Continental Directeur Sportif Jérôme Gannat noted, the record of the team's development programme is second to none.

"Our main objective is always to train our young riders so that they can perform well in the WorldTour. Including Paul Penhoët, eight riders from the promotion 2022 will be in the WorldTour team next year, I think there is no equivalence," he said.

"They were seduced by the project that the team proposed, we don't just offer them a contract in the WorldTour but a long-term sporting project that they have to make their own. They all have a good state of mind, a good sense of teamwork, I think they will quickly bring added value.

"What the Groupama-FDJ cycling team has built up over four years is a success, and next season more than one third of the WorldTour team will have come through the Conti."

Groupama-FDJ are set to continue with their top stars for 2022, too, with the big names already tied to long-term contracts.

Thibaut Pinot, David Gaudu, and Arnaud Démare are signed through 2025 and Valentin Madouas is on board through 2024. Stefan Küng's future is less certain having drawn interest from Team DSM but the Swiss time triallist is now expected to commit to a contract extension.

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