Astana: Just who is Yvon Sanquer?
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Friday, October 16, 2009

Astana: Just who is Yvon Sanquer?

by VeloNation Press at 12:30 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling

So just who is this man Yvon Sanquer - the man who is set to fill the shoes of one of cycling's most successful directors Johan Bruyneel - what do the Kazakh's see in the Frenchman?

One thing is for certain, Sanquer is a man that knows the professional peloton, and some hints of his past might be what it takes to turn the embattled Astana team around.

Why, you might ask? A little over a decade ago Sanquer was the directeur sportif of La Mutuelle de Seine et Marne, a team sponsored by a French health insurance company that was run on a modest budget. Under those circumstances, if you intend on success, the character and ability of a leader to inspire riders comes to the fore.

Much like the revelations brought about by Saxo Bank's Bjarne Riis, it takes a special talent to instill confidence in up and coming riders, and it's arguably even more of a craft to turn a "has been" back into a winner. On a smaller scale, that's what Sanquer set out to accomplish with his La Mutuelle de Seine et Marne squad. While the team's success was found mostly on French soil, his work there demonstrated that he could squeeze some wins out of what little resources he had.

In 1998, the final season of La Mutuelle, Francisque Teyssier won the Grand Prix des Nations, a race that was unofficially regarded as the world time trial championships with names like Anquetil, Poulidor, Merckx, Hinault, Rominger, Boardman and Armstrong all having it listed on their palmares. The team also took victory in the French time trial championship with Gilles Maignan, which is big, if you are a French team.

The Festina doping scandal that erupted out of the 1998 Tour de France warded off any potential new sponsors for La Mutuelle, and left the Frenchman with no money to continue on with the team in 1999. Ironically, the following season Sanquer ended up being hired by Festina, the very team that caused his previous squad to collapse.

In 1999, the Festina team saw its biggest success in Marcel Wüst, a German sprinter who won a stage in the Setmana Catalana de Ciclismo, two stages in the Vuelta Ciclista a Aragón, and capped it off by winning four stages in the Vuelta a Espana and two more in the Commonwealth Bank Classic. After another great start in 2000 with four wins in the Circuit de la Sarthe, as well as stages in Aragón, the Tour of Germany and the Tour de France, his career ended prematurely after losing sight in one eye, the result of a post-Tour de France criterium crash.

Despite losing the team's biggest bread winner, Sanquer had been developing Spaniard Joseba Beloki and his compatriot David Plaza, and both were starting to bear fruit. Ditto for new recruit Angel-Luis Casero who won the Vuelta a Espana that year, fresh off the heels of Frenchman Christope Moreau's win in the Tour de France Prologue. Another Frenchman, Florent Brard, was beginning to show promise winning Paris-Bourges, the last big win of what was then the Festina-Lotus team.

So, while Yvon Sanquer has been out of the limelight in international cycling for many years, he certainly comes with a degree of experience. It's safe to say that the financial backers of the Astana team are banking on the fact that he still has the ability to get the most out his riders, a skill the cannibalized team will desperately need if they're to help Alberto Contador secure another Tour de France victory.

Why the Kazakh's tossed the idea of Wagtmans Rini and former Rabobank director Theo de Rooij taking over to the side is any man's guess, but the decision mirrors the perceived turmoil from the outside. The only connection we could find between Sanquer and the Kazakh's was the presence of the late Andrej Kivilev on the 1999 Festina team roster. Kivilev was a friend of Alexandre Vinokourov, but it's likely just a coincidence.

Read more about Astana's new Team Manager Yvon Sanquer.


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