Tour Guide Flashback – Saur-Sojasun 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. As part of the team pages we are also offering ‘Flashbacks’ to the 2011 Guide to help provide a look at the progress/changes to the teams between the 98th and 99th Tours de France.

In this flashback we look at the commentary on the Saur-Sojasun team from the 2011 Tour preview.

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Flashback: 2011 – Saur-Sojasun Team Pages

Benefits of anonymity could apply for Coppel…

It’s easy to be cynical and suggest the hype surrounding Jérôme Coppel is purely because he’s a Frenchman on a team that, to be frank, is lucky to be at the Tour. Saur-Sojasun is the fourth wildcard recipient and the least known of all teams at the Tour in 2011. In only its second year, ASO has given it the ultimate reward for a fledgling formation – and a glimmer of hope does exist that one of the riders could achieve something of note.

Of course, it’s impossible to win a race you don’t start. With this in mind we should admire what Stéphane Heulot has been able to achieve in the foundation years of this bold project.

Coppel hasn’t competed much since leaving FDJ and joining Saur-Sojasun but when he gets a chance to perform, he relishes it. At the Critérium du Dauphiné last year he was fifth overall. Ahead of him were riders of repute: Brajkovic (of RadioShack), Contador (with Astana, at the time), van Garderen (HTC) and van den Broeck (Omega Pharma-Lotto). He was 10th in the prologue and fourth at Alpe d’Huez – so he can time trial and climb well. And it was no fluke result either.

Early in 2011, Coppel has been in the top five overall in five stage races: Etoile des Bessèges (fifth), Ruta del Sol (fourth), Vuelta a Murcia (second) and the Vuelta Castilla y Léon (fifth). Admittedly, some were possibly raced with a view to attracting attention to his team from the Tour de France organisers but that shouldn’t mean that he won’t be able to back up.

Of course, no results in any of the events listed above are indicative of what we can expect in July but at least it hints that Saur-Sojasun has something to warrant its place. Beyond Coppel, who abandoned the only Tour de France he started (in 2009) because of injury, there are riders with some experience. Casper, Engoulvent, Turpin… they’re not household names but anyone who has followed the Tour knows that each has played a part in animating the racing. The former has won a stage and the other two regularly tried their luck in escapes in the past.

In the ratings, Saur-Sojasun gets three stars for the climbing classification based on several factors: Coppel’s previous results, the nature of that competition – where GC riders must refrain from chasing points in order to save energy whenever possible and the fact that virtual anonymity is a benefit. Few knew who Mauricio Soler was before he raced ahead on the first day in the mountains a few years ago. He got the polka-dot top and never surrendered it. The same could apply to this team.

Okay, Coppel may be known by a few in the bunch but he’s going to be allowed some leeway because he’s not really a threat to the real title contenders. He’s also going to race this Tour as though his life depends on it. Heulot is one of 83 Frenchmen to have worn the Tour’s yellow jersey, and is one of few to abandon the race while in the lead of GC. He did this in 1996; 15 years later, as manager of a team that’s been given a lucky break, he’ll look to make amends for that horrible day in the rain.

by Rob Arnold

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Author: design@ride

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