Critérium du Dauphiné: Saur-Sojasun, Europcar lead the French teams
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Sunday, June 10, 2012

Critérium du Dauphiné: Saur-Sojasun, Europcar lead the French teams

by Kyle Moore at 4:43 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Critérium du Dauphiné
FDJ-BigMat, Cofidis, AG2R La Mondiale assess performances with the Tour on the horizon

Jerome CoppelWith the Critérium du Dauphiné completed and with Bradley Wiggins (Sky Procycling) crowned the back-to-back champion, the participating French teams are looking at their performance over the week with their biggest race of the season just a few weeks away.

In view of the Tour de France, Saur-Sojasun and Europcar seem to be in the best circumstances, but AG2R La Mondiale, Cofidis, and FDJ-BigMat are all grading their performances in the Dauphiné and looking forward to July.

For Saur-Sojasun, leader Jérôme Coppel shined the brightest, taking second behind Cadel Evans (BMC Racing) on stage two, and being one of the last men caught out of the breakaway on Sunday’s final stage. Coppel’s energy spent in the final escape meant that he was missing something in the uphill finale in Chatel, and he would ultimately drop to 17th in the final standings, 5’53” behind Wiggins.

Heading toward his second Tour de France as leader of his team, Coppel acknowledged that he’s not in Tour shape yet.

“I still have work to do,” he stated. “But the team works very hard. That is important with the Tour in a few weeks. The guys are very competitive, and we should not envy the World Tour teams, as we were one of the formations that was most prominent throughout the week.”

Saur-Sojasun was fourth overall in the team classification, the top French team, finishing behind only Team Sky, BMC Racing, and Movistar. Team director Stephane Heulot was pleased with this, as well as with the pluck shown by Brice Feillu in Saturday’s stage 6 breakaway, culminating with his demise on the Joux-Plane.

“It’s a collective satisfaction with the good finish overall,” Heulot said according to L’Equipe. “The team ranking reflects this. I like what was done by Feillu on Saturday. I saw a little ‘Virenque,’ a little daring. We are lacking that sometimes.”


Europcar left the Dauphiné without a win and with a bit of disappointment, but the team still has the potential to match some of the successes of their Tour de France last year. However the team will have to hope for a quick recovery for Thomas Voeckler, who abandoned shortly after starting Sunday’s final stage, noting pain in his right knee.

Team director Ismaël Mottier did not seem overly concerned with Voeckler’s withdrawal, which could indicate that the injury may not be serious. Mottier noted the efforts of Pierre Rolland, who was on the attack during stage 7.

“We are a little disappointed because there was no conclusive result,” Mottier said, referring to Europcar’s failure to pick up a win. “But we had several breakaway riders every day and we are reassured by the health of the riders. It is a good sign.

“The abandonment of Thomas is a side note. It is most disappointing for Pierre that he could not win the final stage.”


FDJ-BigMat picked up the lone French stage win of the race, as Arthur Vichot was victorious on stage five. But the French team will be disappointed with the final results of the general classification, in which they finished 19th out of the 22 teams racing. The abandonment of Arnold Jeannesson, their primary hope in July, certainly contributed to this. Along with Jeannesson, three other FDJ-BigMat riders quit the race throughout the week.

“[Our experience was] somewhat positive since we have a stage win,” team director Christophe Mengin mentioned according to L’Equipe. “You could hardly expect better considering all the glitches we encountered.

“Jeannesson was a little feverish on Saturday and we preferred not to impede his preparations for the Tour. It was just a little period of doubt, and we hope that he will be ready.”


Leader Rein Taaramäe was able to complete the Dauphiné, his first legitimate racing since Paris-Nice. The Estonian had been out with a bout of mononucleosis, to go along with a fractured elbow. So manager Eric Boyer was pleased with the efforts of Taaramäe and his team.

“Our riders were in the daily escape, so I’m pretty happy,” Boyer explained. “Since Paris-Nice, Rein had two days of racing, mononucleosis, and a broken elbow. You could not do better [in the Dauphiné than he did]. I cannot ensure that he will ride a Tour as good or better than last year, but he is on the right track.”

AG2R-La Mondiale:

Nicolas Roche and John Gadret are riding well in the early part of the Tour de Suisse, but the same could not be said for the team’s third leader, Jean-Christophe Peraud, in the Critérium du Dauphiné. Peraud lost ten minutes on the final stage, and almost 32 minutes overall to Wiggins. The Frenchman has the Olympic mountain bike race to think about this summer, so duplicating last year’s 9th place finish in the Tour could prove difficult.

“We did not achieve our goal of winning a stage,” team director Vincent Lavenu rued afterward. “We were also far from placing a rider in the top ten [Rinaldo Nocentini led the team in 19th – ed.]. We are disappointed but not everything is negative. In the Morzine stage, the riders found a good cohesion.”


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