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Viviani's Cofidis tenure was 'a failure from a sporting point of view' says Vasseur

Cedric Vasseur
Cofidis manager Cédric Vasseur (Image credit: Cofidis)

Cofidis manager Cédric Vasseur has acknowledged that his team face pressure to maintain their place in the WorldTour for the 2023 season. Although Cofidis finished 2021 in 15th place in the UCI rankings, they current lie 19th in the cumulative table of the past two years, which would leave them outside the WorldTour when the licences are awarded for the next three seasons at the end of this year.

“It’s true that we would have preferred to have been 12th now rather than 19th, but we can see that between 16th and 20th place, the differences aren’t enormous,” Vasseur told L’Équipe, though he insisted that his team would race for victories rather than UCI points in 2022.

“I refuse to ask my riders to start races just to get points. I’m asking them to have winning behaviours. If we find ourselves in this position today, it’s because in 2020, some of our leaders did not respond.

"We have an obligation to get results, but also to keep an eye on our ranking so as not to be left behind. But we are not the only ones in this situation. Of course, we will have pressure. What we want is to deserve our place in the UCI World Tour, and now it's up to the riders to get the points.”

Cofidis returned to the WorldTour at the start of 2020 after a decade at Pro Continental level, and they signed Elia Viviani from QuickStep to help cement their status in the top flight. Viviani endured two difficult seasons with Cofidis, however, falling well short of the results he had obtained in QuickStep colours.

Viviani failed to win a race in 2020, and although he returned to winning ways in 2021 after undergoing atrial ablation surgery at the start of the season, none of his seven wins came at WorldTour level. The Italian, who claimed bronze in the omnium at the Tokyo Olympics, has since joined Ineos on a three-year contract.

“From a sporting point of view, Elia Viviani was a failure. On the other hand, I think he made us grow. He has been with some great teams before, and he has instilled a way of working in the team that has made us progress. But when you recruit a rider like him, you hope he will take 3,000 points in two years and not 1,200,” Vasseur said.

Although Vasseur praised Viviani for his professionalism “right up to his last race”, he conceded that the Italian had never managed to replicate his QuickStep performances in Cofidis colours. He suggested Viviani’s crash at the Tour Down Under and the lockdown had left him out of shape for the pandemic-condensed 2020 season.

“We found him at the start of the Tour de France with a nice little belly. Obviously, with that body fat percentage, it didn’t work. For a leader who ends the year with 200 points, it’s a missed season.” Vasseur said.

“He had a satisfactory year in 2021 with five wins, but at a level that wasn’t that of Elia Viviani. I don't want to blame him either, because I know that he gave 100 per cent of his means. It’s just that his means were not the ones he had at QuickStep.”

Christophe Laporte has also left Cofidis during the off-season, departing for Jumbo-Visma, and new arrival Bryan Coquard, who joins from B&B Hotels, will be the team’s lead sprinter in 2022.

“[Laporte] was with us for eight years and we have to accept that he wanted to go elsewhere,” Vasseur said. “We just have to bounce back from this kind of situation and quickly find alternatives. A Bryan Coquard is largely capable of replacing a Christophe Laporte in terms of results.”

The Cofidis squad for 2022 was presented in Paris on Thursday. As well as Coquard, new arrivals include Ion Izagirre, Davide Cimolai and Davide Villella, while Guillaume Martin remains in place as team leader in the Grand Tours. After placing in the top 10 at both the Tour de France and Vuelta a España in 2021, Martin is set to make his Giro d’Italia debut this year.

“I waited to see the route. There isn’t much time trialling, around 25km, and it’s as mountainous as normal. If I don’t do it this year, I’ll never do it. It was the right year,” Martin said, according to Ouest-France.

“It’s a race that could suit me. There is movement, you have to be opportunistic. The weather conditions could suit me. It’s a time of the year when I’m generally in form, and I like Italy, I’ve won there a few times.”

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