Marc Madiot is taking aim at the podium of the 2022 Tour de France with his Groupama-FDJ team, maintaining that both Thibaut Pinot and David Gaudu have the potential to finish in the top three in Paris.
The emotive Breton manager revealed to L'Equipe that in his annual motivation speech to the team he compared the assault on the 2022 season to the D-Day landings of World War II. It is unclear how his riders responded.
Pinot placed third overall in the 2014 Tour and was in the hunt to win the race overall five years later only for a thigh injury to force his dramatic abandon two days before the finish in Paris. A long-standing back injury saw Pinot miss last year’s Tour but he is set to return to the race in 2022.
Gaudu led Groupama-FDJ’s general classification challenge in Pinot’s absence last July, placing 11th overall. The Breton finished eighth overall in the 2020 Vuelta a España, winning two stages on the way, and he will line out at this year’s Tour alongside Pinot and new signing Michael Storer.
"Look at the guys who have been on the podium these last years, so why not us too?" Madiot told L’Équipe. "They have two arms, two legs – so gentlemen, let's go!"
Madiot acknowledged that two-time winner Tadej Pogačar and his fellow Slovenian Primož Roglič were "perhaps a notch above" all of the other podium contenders, but he saw no reason to temper his riders’ ambitions.
"We can still be on the podium behind them. And look at what happened to Roglič [who abandoned after an early crash] last year…" Madiot said.
"You can legitimately start with the aim of trying to get the podium. I want us to have that mindset. Pinot has already done it. Gaudu, if he improves a bit, won’t be far behind."
Pinot had been linked with a possible return to the Giro d’Italia, where he placed fourth overall in 2017, but Groupama-FDJ have ultimately decided to deploy their three best climbers at the Tour, preferring to send sprinter Arnaud Démare to Italy in May.
Asked if he felt it was a risk to place all of his GC eggs in the Tour basket, Madiot said: "No, because we know the Tour, unfortunately, both its good and bad sides."
Although Pinot’s pedigree makes him Groupama-FDJ’s obvious leader in July, Madiot expressed hope that some internal competition with Gaudu and Storer would help all three to improve between here and the Tour.
"[I hope] there will be competition between these good boys. Half-wheeling in training to hurt your mates, that still exists," Madiot said.
"There is always a moment when there is a power struggle. Even in training, you mark your territory. I spoke with Thibaut, and he said to me ‘damn, [at the training camp] in Calpe, I wasn't the best'. Well, that reassures me."
Speaking to BiciPro, Groupama-FDJ directeur sportif Philippe Mauduit confirmed that Pinot and Gaudu had enjoyed friendly internal competition ever since the Breton signed with the team.
"I was still a directeur sportif in Italy the first year David was at Groupama-FDJ, but I heard the ‘little one’ was always half-wheeling him. And Pinot responded," Mauduit said.
"That game between has remained, and that competition is helping them both grow. I can confirm that they’re friends and they love racing together."
Pinot was initially scheduled to start his season at the Tour des Alpes Maritimes et du Var (February 18-20), but there remains a possibility that he will return to competition sooner, at next week’s Etoile de Bessèges.
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