Having secured Ag2r La Mondiale’s commitment to his outfit until the end of 2018 within the past few days, team manager Vincent Lavenu has wasted no time in extending the contracts of his two Tour de France stars. Jean-Christophe Péraud’s deal with Ag2r now runs until the end of 2016, while Romain Bardet has committed to another two years beyond that, to the end of 2018.
“To a degree this is recognition of the work they’ve achieved,” Lavenu told L’Équipe. “The chance to extend Romain’s contract has resulted from the renegotiation of our partnership with Ag2r La Mondiale. He’s a rider for the future and we plan to be with him at the top level for as long as possible.”
Lavenu explained that the extension of Ag2r’s commitment has also enabled him to strengthen the team, “enabling us to look forward to the future with serenity and to build a solid squad in future years.” The first part of that process has resulted in the arrival of Belgians Jan Bakelants from Omega Pharma-Quick Step and Johan Vansummeren from Garmin-Sharp.
Lavenu said he had been tracking 2013 Tour de France stage-winner Bakelants for some time. “He’s a multi-talented and all-round rider, he’s got a very high level and is going to bring a lot to the team,” said Lavenu. “As for Vansummeren, he’s got a very interesting profile. He’s already won Paris-Roubaix and is the kind of rider who will raise our level at the Flemish Classics. He is also capable of shining on all terrains.”
Lavenu’s only concern, as it has been for most of the season, is the future of Paris-Nice champion Carlos Betancur. The Colombian finally returned to action at the Vuelta after a very prolonged stay in his home country, but was in a very poor state of form. “There was a big clash. He made a mistake,” said Lavenu. “But after a very long discussion, he apologised and we’ve decided to start over from zero. For now, we’ve decided to respect his contract. But we won’t have another crisis like that.”
Meanwhile, FDJ.fr’s determination to boost the sprint chances of Arnaud Démare has led to them signing Kévin Reza from Europcar. The 26-year-old who made his Worlds debut at the weekend has penned a two-year deal.
“I will provide support to Arnaud Démare at certain races and I’ll have a certain amount of freedom on week-long WorldTour races such as the Tours of Catalonia and the Basque Country,” Reza told L’Équipe.
Peter Cossins has written about professional cycling since 1993 and is a contributing editor to Procycling. He is the author of The Monuments: The Grit and the Glory of Cycling's Greatest One-Day Races (Bloomsbury, March 2014) and has translated Christophe Bassons' autobiography, A Clean Break (Bloomsbury, July 2014).
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