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Véranda Rideau-U becomes Continental as La Pomme Marseille renews

The French League of Professional Cycling has registered two new teams for 2012 at Continental level, Team Véranda Rideau-U and La Pomme Marseille, according to French Federation's website, The country will have 10 professional teams in total, including two in the WorldTour with AG2R-La Mondiale and FDJ-BigMat.

Team Véranda Rideau-U is a new project coming from a first division amateur club launched in 2008. The roster will include 12 riders, most of them sprinters or rouleurs, with notable riders being 23-year-old Arnaud Molmy (BigMat-Auber 93), who was a revelation at Etoile de Béssèges' last year, and Freddy Bichot, aged 32, the current French amateur champion and former professional with Barloworld, FDJ, Agritubel and BBox Bouygues Télécom.

Ex-pro Samuel Plouhinec, a prolific winner in the amateur ranks and co-founder of the team three years ago, has decided to leave.

Team Véranda Rideau-U's manager will be Johnny Neveau while directeurs sportifs will be Mickaël Leveau and Laurent Genty. Previously based in the department of the Sarthe with a main sponsor from Vendée, the outfit is now linked to another amateur club, the USSA Pavilly Barentin, in Normandy.

La Pomme Marseille will be a Continental squad for the second season in row, but they have left the Latvian federation and successfully applied for a French license. Their registration had been denied last winter as they didn't have the theoretical 1 Million Euro budget requested by the French League, which French Continental teams need to attain professional status in addition to all riders having full-time contracts - contrary to the policy of most national federations, which class Continental teams as amateurs.

The Marseille team will lose its leader, Julien Antomarchi, the winner of Tour du Haut-Var's final stage ahead of Thomas Voeckler, who has been signed by Team Type 1-Sanofi in 2012. The team has hired neo-professionals like Yannick Martinez, a 23 year-old Classics rider, the young brother of 2000 Olympic MTB Champion Miguel and the son of Mariano, polka-dot jersey in the 1978 Tour de France, as well as climber Clément Koretzky, 21, a winner of Tour of Val d'Aoste's first stage.

Foreign riders will remain in the squad, like Latvian Toms Skujins, 20, fourth in the U23 Tour of Flanders this year and sixth in the 2010 U23 Paris-Tours, and Evaldas Siskevicius, 23, Lithuanian National Time Trial Champion and a stagiaire for Crédit Agricole in 2008.

With those two additions, French peloton will have ten teams: two on the WorldTour (AG2R-La Mondiale, FDJ-BigMat), four on the Pro Continental (Bretagne-Schuller, Cofidis, Europcar, Saur-Sojasun) and four on the Continental (BigMat Auber-93, Team Roubaix-Lille Métropole, Team La Pomme Marseille, Team Véranda Rideau-U). This raises the stakes for the French organizers, who are supposed to invite all the French pro teams to their races.

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