Heulot reacts to non-Tour invite for Saur-Sojasun
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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Heulot reacts to non-Tour invite for Saur-Sojasun

by Bjorn Haake at 2:17 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling

Stéphane Heulot was quite annoyed to hear about his team, Saur-Sojasun, not being invited to the 2010 Tour de France (July 3-25) by the Amaury Sports Organisation. Heulot lamented that the invitation process was unclear and regretted the chance to go against the big guns.

Heulot, manager of the French professional continental team, could not see how the decision will help cycling evolve. "The cycling of the past prevailed over an up-and-coming team," he told leparisien.fr. "They [ASO] made us believe that from the sporting side of things, there would be a competition. But it is very clear that the decision had been made for many weeks."

Heulot emphasized that the team was left in the dark. "The selection criteria and the rules were never clearly defined," he said. Heulot felt the Tour was a big chance. "We would have needed that competition to grow as a team."

In a pre-season interview published on the team's website, Heulot was determined that the team would fight for a Tour spot. "We tackle the Tour the Tour de France objective with determination and serenity. Determination, because we absolutely want to be there in July, not only to participate, but also to be a veritable player in the Tour.

"Serenity, because it doesn't do us any good to give in to the pressure around us. The selection is complex? It is up to us to respond in terms of performance to make our nomination obvious."

The team, which started last year under the name of Besson Chaussures-Sojasun, had a strong start to the season. Jonathan Hivert kicked off the winning campaign with the traditional French season starter, the GP d'Ouverture La Marseillaise in January. Sprinter Jimmy Casper won a stage in the Tour of Oman and one in the Tour de Normandie. Laurent Mangel took the Classic Loire Atlantique.

There were also several notable podium spots (Rony Martias second in the Driedaagse van West-Vlaanderen, Jérémie Galland third in stage 1 of Paris-Nice and Cyril Bessy third in Paris-Troyes). There was also the young French hope, Jérôme Coppel, who was seen in several breakaways late in the game. He also finished tenth in Paris-Nice.

But all this was not enough to continue the tradition of Agritubel, which was able to snatch the invites up in the past few years.

Heulot is a former pro, who became famous for wearing the yellow jersey in the 1996 Tour de France. After three days in the lead he had to abandon the race with knee pain in the 200km stage between Chambéry and Les Arcs. He stopped, teary-eyed,  on a rainy day in a stage through the French Alps, won by Luc Leblanc.


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