with Marc Madiot

“I am very optimistic”

On Sunday, the Groupama-FDJ cycling team will officially start its 2022 road season in Marseille, with the usual Grand Prix d’Ouverture – also being the first round of the FDJ French Cup. A few days before this long-awaited return to racing, we got to gauge general manager Marc Madiot’ mood.

Marc, is everything on track for 2022?

Everything is on track, and at the same time, the Covid has paradoxically never been around so much. One after another, members of the team get to be contaminated, as in all teams, and as everywhere else. There is nothing serious, but it leads to disturbances. For now, it has no impact on the programs, but we know that it can happen. We just have to hope that we’ll have enough fit people when the time comes. There is no point in being too worried about the situation, we will simply adapt. We do tests, we pay attention, but it’s not all up to us. Objectively, we will necessarily have to cope with this situation at one time or another, but let’s not worry for now. We will do our best.

“We want to feel the adrenaline of racing and victory”

This is the 26th season start for your team. Do you still feel the same excitement?

Absolutely! I am happy that the races are resuming, I have a hunger for the races that are coming up, I want to go back to the races as soon as possible. That’s what we do this job for. We want to race, put on a bib, try to get results, feel the adrenaline of racing and victory. It is vital. If there was not all that at the end of the chain, we wouldn’t do everything that is necessary beforehand. Everyone wants to race now. We are in late January, that’s it, we want to put on the bib! Personally, I’m excited about the races. If I’m not on site, I watch them on TV, and for sure I don’t watch them the same way if I have guys there or not. For example, I’m going to watch the cyclocross World championship closely, even if we don’t have any riders except for Louka Lesueur, who we’re supporting, among the juniors.

Precisely, the team got its first victory of the season at the beginning of the month in the French cyclocross championships.

It doesn’t count for road victories, of course, but it’s still very nice. For us, it was a return to cyclocross, and it proved to be a winning return. Winning in the U23 (Romain Grégoire) and in the Juniors (Louka Lesueur) also makes us think about the future. It is more than interesting, it is motivating and stimulating. Personally, I was also very happy to go back to cyclocross races. This being said, the goal is more about developing our youngsters. We have four riders who are part of this cyclocross project in the winter. We don’t intend to make it wider than it is, but we will continue to include this discipline as part of the rider’s development in the coming seasons. For the time being, there is no international ambition for the team.

Let’s get back to the road. You said this year would be pivotal. Why so?

Because in 2021, we had a lack of results, particularly in terms of stage victories on the Grand Tours. For us, it is important to come back to winning ways in these events. It is also a pivotal year insofar as Thibaut experienced important physical issues last year. For him, it’s a new beginning. Arnaud was not necessarily as great as he was in other years, and this is an important moment for him too. Finally, David Gaudu is still developing, even though he is among the best in the world. We want to keep improving with him. First and foremost, it is a pivotal year from this point of view, looking at what happened last year. It is not yet a pivotal year in anticipation of 2023. We won’t put the cart before the horse. The goal is above all to be ready this year, and I think that we have worked well over the winter. We did some good training camps and I think the momentum is already good.

“What is important is today, not tomorrow”

Was there a need for a deep reassessment during the winter?

We mostly tried to understand why we were a step below our usual level in 2021, and why we were always missing this small percentage. There are several reasons for this, and especially the 2020/2021 off-season, which we simply did not manage well. We were not able to resume with the basics we usually have. Actually, for two years we were not able to organize a team building kind-of camp, where everyone could get together. From this point of view, we felt a real shortage last year. You also note at this point that videoconference meetings have their limits (smiles). We needed to feel that cohesion and that unity again, to finally get together. It is something essential in a team’s life. I think the camp in Calpe in December did us a lot of good. We were able to refocus and revitalize all together. We have all felt the benefits of being together again.

What do you expect from your riders and staff this year?

I expect one very simple thing: that we translate into results what we have seen in the training camps: state of mind, work, physical level, commitment. I am waiting for the translation of all this in the field, but I am very optimistic.

You also talked about an “aggressive” year. What do you mean by that?

I mean that we must not give in to fatality. If we miss a race, I don’t want to hear any more “it is not a big deal, it will be better tomorrow”. No. What is important is today, not tomorrow. I think the message got through, everyone understands it, and I think it’s going to go well. Our goal is not to attack anywhere, anyhow, at all costs. Being aggressive means being involved in what is happening in the race, all the time. Last year, we often lacked a little something, but this lack of a little something is what makes you finish in second, third or fourth place, instead of first. This is what we need to work on. We don’t lack that much, but we need to get that aggressiveness that makes us be satisfied only with the win.

“The more you win, the more chances you have of winning big”

You illustrated your motivational speech with the Normandy landings. How did your audience react to it?

I didn’t get any direct feedback, but I think they got the message. We’ll only be able to verify it in the field, but I already feel a good spirit in the training camps. Of course, our competitors also train and surely are very motivated as well, but I think we put everything we needed into training, cohesion and team’s life to bounce back. The comparison might be a little touchy compared to what the D-Day landings were, but personally, I was interested in the state of mind. The guys who landed in 1944 didn’t know what France was and didn’t speak French. They got in a boat and were told they were going to put themselves in the firing line. We get in a boat, we know where we are going and we speak the same “language”. It’s much easier, isn’t it? What interested me was the concept of will. I try to get inside the heads of the guys who got on the boat to understand their state of mind. When my riders get on their bike and come at the start of the races, whether it’s the Tour or something else, I want them to be determined.

Is the goal to win more races or to win higher races?

If you win, you win. The goal is to win. Everything is worth taking. I’m ok with winning anywhere, anytime, anyhow, it doesn’t matter. We just need to score. Now, if we can score on the Tour, it will be even better. Still, one goes with the other. You don’t win thirty-five races without winning some great ones. We want to win both more and higher. Either way, the more you win, the more chances you have of winning big. We want to move up a notch or two in comparison to what we did last year. We can win almost everywhere and perform very well, especially in the Tour de France. When I say that we are aiming for the podium of the Tour, I mean it. When you look closely, there are riders who are going for the Tour podium and who have nothing more than us. So why not us?

Last year, the team had to wait until early April to tally two wins. Should the counter run faster this season?

You always have to keep the counter running! If there is one thing you need to know, whether you’re a “small” team or the biggest one in the world, it is that the counter must be running. It’s like a football championship: you have to get points. The start of the season is therefore indeed very important, but the whole season is! Now that we have said that, we obviously need to start the right way, as starting on a good basis can only do you some good.

The perpetual question being, should the Grand Prix La Marseillaise be won or not?

Good question… It all depends on where you stand in relation to the idea you have of it, as Coluche said. I can’t wait to win, but the Opening race… I’m always a bit nervous about it. However, it is very personal and since I am the only one to feel this way, if we can win it, we will.

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