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Pinot, Démare, Küng, Gaudu sign new three-year deals with Groupama-FDJ

Thibaut Pinot smiles at the start
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)

Thibaut Pinot has committed his long-term future to Groupama-FDJ, with the French team also tying Arnaud Démare, David Gaudu, and Stefan Küng to new three-year deals. 

Pinot's previous contract was due to expire at the end of 2020 but he was always likely to stay at the team where he started his professional career 10 years ago. He will now do so until at least the end of 2023.

Pinot was one of the stars of last year's Tour de France, dominating the mountain stages in the Pyrenees before disaster struck and a mysterious thigh injury caused him to leave the race in tears in the Alps. 

His new contract signals both the willingness of Groupama-FDJ, a French team with French sponsors, to invest in the brightest home star, and their relative stability at a time when the coronavirus pandemic has largely put contract talks on hold. 

"It was obvious that they wanted to continue the adventure with the Groupama-FDJ Cycling Team. The commitment of our two title sponsors until 2024 was clearly a determining factor in my decision to stay. Being able to count on loyal sponsors and partners enables us all to progress serenely," Pinot said.

"From a sporting point of view, the project is becoming more and more ambitious and interesting. Today, we can see the rise of young people like David Gaudu or Valentin Madouas and that is creating a real craze around us. Personally, it stimulates me and pushes me to transcend myself. 

"Leaving, when I arrive in my best years, would have left me with a taste of unfinished business. I haven't finished writing my story with this team. I'm firmly convinced that we're still going to build great things and win the best races. The Tour de France is obviously still the ultimate goal for which I want to devote myself 100 per cent."

Groupama-FDJ have gone a long way to bolstering the foundations of their near future. As well as Pinot, they have also handed three-year extensions to their two other prized Frenchman: sprinter Démare and climber Gaudu. On top of that, Swiss rouleur Stefan Küng, who has already proved an important domestique as well as time trial contender and Classics rider, will stay for three more years, having joined from BMC in 2019.

Démare has won stages in the Tour de France and Giro d’Italia, as well as being a Classics specialist with Milan-San Remo on his palmarès. He and Pinot have largely been separated in recent years, with one or the other taking dedicated support squads to the Giro and Tour, respectively. With Pinot seemingly having rediscovered his enthusiasm for the Tour, it remains to be seen how many opportunities Démare, now 28, will get at the Grande Boucle in the next few years.

Gaudu, meanwhile, continues his rise after signalling his promise with victory at the 2016 Tour de l’Avenir. Since turning professional, he has posted strong results in the hilly Classics as well as week-long stage races, while his Grand Tour potential was underlined by his 13th place at last year’s Tour, where he stood out on Pinot’s stage-winning ride on the Col du Tourmalet.

The 23-year-old is considered a future Grand Tour contender but is clearly happy to remain somewhat in Pinot’s shadow at FDJ for the time being.

Küng, meanwhile, has slotted quickly into the team, and is considered a key part of the engine room that Grand Tour bids will be built on. The Swiss time trial champion can ride the Classics and even lead-outs, while his importance to Pinot was underlined in the crosswinds at the recent Paris-Nice.

“Extending this quartet of riders is an obvious act. Each one of them brings his own contribution to the building. Since the team's inception, it has always been and remains committed to its riders over the long term,” Groupama-FDJ manager Marc Madiot said.

“Very often, they are riders who have become professionals with us so that we have a relationship of trust and very high ambitions. I remain convinced that in order to achieve extremely high sporting goals, you have to be committed to the long term. You only have to look at the history of the sport to confirm this.

“Our title sponsors Groupama and FDJ have shown their confidence in us for another four years by committing themselves alongside us until 2024. This is what has enabled us to offer Thibaut Pinot, Arnaud Démare, David Gaudu and Stefan Küng a plan which is in keeping with the long term."