Pinot to start 2019 season at Tour la Provence

Groupama-FDJ is wrapping up its December camp in Calpe, Spain, and has decided on the first races for its key riders, with Grand Tour contender Thibaut Pinot to headline the Tour la Provence and sprinter Arnaud Démare and newcomer Stefan Küng kicking off the season in the Volta ao Algarve.

Pinot ended this year with a win in Milano-Torino and a spectacular solo victory in Il Lombardia, his first Monument win. After overcoming a lung infection that crushed his podium hopes in the Giro d'Italia, Pinot also went on to win two stages of the Vuelta a España and finished sixth overall.

He will start 2019 in Provence at the four-day tour - which will start with an 8.9km prologue in Saintes Marie de la Mer - a bit earlier than his first race this season, the Tour du Haut Var. It's all part of the build up toward July. Pinot has decided to put all of his hopes on the Tour de France this season, and will skip the Giro d'Italia.

Sprinter Démare will launch his 2019 campaign in the Volta ao Algarve, a five-day stage race in Portugal. Démare was second on the first stage this year behind Dylan Groenewegen, and used the race to build up for the Classics.

He will be joined on the line by Stefan Küng, who should enjoy the 20.3km individual time trial on stage 3 in Lagoa. Küng signed with the French squad from the BMC Racing Team.

The team's other sprinter, Marc Sarreau, will kick off the 2019 season with the Grand Prix de la Marseillaise on February 3 before defending his victory in the points classification at Etoile de Bessèges. Sarreau won two stages of the race this season.

French champion Anthony Roux will begin his year at the Trofeo Laigueglia on February 17.

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