Jean-Christophe Péraud has signed for AG2R-La Mondiale for 2011. The Frenchman has penned a two-year deal with his new team after turning professional with Omega Pharma-Lotto this season.
The 33-year-old won the cross country mountain bike silver medal at the 2008 Olympic Games and switched his attention to the road after winning the French time trial title in 2009. In his debut season as a professional on the road, Péraud offered some impressive performances at Paris-Nice, where he was 9th overall, and the Tour of the Basque Country, where he finished in 4th. He recently completed his first major tour at the Vuelta a España, reaching Madrid in 39th place.
"We've wanted to sign him for a long time," AG2R manager Vincent Lavenu told L'Équipe. "We already had talks with him last year, but unfortunately we couldn't do anything because I didn't have the budget."
Péraud signed a two-year contract with Omega Pharma-Lotto last winter but Lavenu managed to negotiate his release. "Everything gathered pace during the Vuelta," he said. "We came to an agreement with him, but also with his team. Jean-Christophe wanted to move to a French team and his team understood. It all went well with his managers there. I have to thank them, really."
Lavenu believes that Péraud can provide crucial support to Ireland's Nicolas Roche at next year's Tour de France and relieve him from some of his burdens as leader. After an impressive Tour, Roche went on to finish the Vuelta in 7th place.
"We already have Nicolas as a leader," Lavenu said. "But it's our intention to have a high-level team and to do that one leader isn't enough. This will allow us to share the pressure. Along with Nicolas we hope that Jean-Christophe will show well at the 2011 Tour."
Lavenu is also unconcerned by Péraud's age. Having turned his attention fully to the road this season, he believes that his new signing can stay competitive into his late thirties: "He has a bright future on the road even though he is 33 years old."
Meanwhile, the future of Bbox-Bouygues Telecom hangs on a knife-edge this weekend and Lavenu confirmed that he will not be in a position to sign any of its riders should the team fold as Péraud is the final rider to be added to his 2011 roster.
"I was in contact with two Bbox riders during the Tour," he said. "They decided not to follow through so as to continue with Jean-René Bernaudeau. It's true that there are some interesting riders who could become available, but I already have 27 riders under contract, I don't have the finances to sign more."
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