Tour Guide Flashback – AG2R Team Pages (2011)
RIDE Media has produced the official Tour de France Guide (Australian edition) since 2003. The 2012 edition will be on sale mid-June. During the production period, we will be looking back at certain features from over the years.
In this flashback we take a look at the commentary on the AG2R team from the 2011 Tour preview.
Flashback: 2011 – AG2R Team Pages
Options for opportunity & Roche ready to improve
Watch the replay of stage 10 of this year’s Giro d’Italia if you want evidence that AG2R has riders capable of seizing chances. John Gadret timed his winning surge to perfection! Not even the former world number-one Joaquim Rodriguez could reel in the little tattooed French climber who tends to excel in the Giro but fade from prominence when the pressure is on at home in July. Now that he’s won a stage of a Grand Tour, Gadret might mature into a rider capable of chasing the polka-dot jersey.
That’s one option for this team – and not just with John. In 2010 we saw that a track specialist, Christophe Riblon, could climb to a stage victory in the Pyrenees. A year earlier, Rinaldo Nocentini earned the coup of a stint in the yellow jersey that lasted for over a week. And, of course, there’s also the tenacious ‘Nico’ Roche – son of the 1987 Tour winner… and a man who is discovering his GC ambitions: 15th last July and seventh at the Vuelta a España in September. He’s learning to understand his strength and use his energy based on more than emotion.
“I’m just so passionate about what I do,” he said in 2008, the year before his Tour debut. “I love the thrill of the sprint. When I’m going well, I like to fight it out on the climbs. I still have a lot of work to do on time trials… I’m not consistent. I lose focus somewhere – I’m good for four or five kilometres but after that it’s pretty random. I can do a good TT one day and the next week it can be terrible. I have to work on that.”
Roche knows his weaknesses and his team appreciates his strengths. He had options at contract renewal time a few years ago but stayed at AG2R because he was promised leadership status. Now is the time for him to repay Lavenu for his faith. “I have to decide what I want to do: if I want to lose energy and chase top-five positions in the sprints, or am I going to save something for the climbs and work on my GC?”
At the Tour last year he was prepared to attack in the quest for bonus seconds as part of his bid for a top 10 overall ranking. He did so on more than one occasion and it’s this sortantic that makes the public enamoured of him.: why accept defeat when there’s an opportunity to improve? It’s an approach that might not endear him with GC peers… but do they pay his wage?
Okay, there are different perceptions of prestige but Roche is of the belief that it’s better to try and fail than not bother at all. When asked if he’d rather feature in multiple stages but not win one or just have a good position in the overall rankings, his response reflected his ambitious approach: “I think the best is being fifth on GC and winning a stage.”
We haven’t seen the best of Roche or his team-mates yet. With the arrival of Jean-Christophe Péraud – a former MTB racer who won the French TT title last year, the aggressive Mikaël Chérel and Mathieu Perget (who seemed prepared to attack every second day of the 2010 Tour), there is plenty of talent for this team to use this July. No longer is it the case that the French teams are simply fodder for early escapes with only a hint of opportunity: they are making the race and giving the willing combatants a chance to show what’s possible.
by Rob Arnold