The connection between the continental team and WorldTeam reaches a new step this week. Thanks to a new UCI rule, riders registered with a development team may race with the related WorldTeam during the season. In this regard, the Groupama-FDJ cycling team will be one of the pioneers, allowing Jake Stewart (20) and Lars van den Berg (21) to compete in the Tour of Algarve and Tour du Haut-Var respectively in the coming days with the “big boys”. This strategy fits in perfectly with the team’s philosophy, and Yvon Madiot sat down to tell us more about it.
Yvon, can you first describe this new rule?
The first condition is to have a development team fully related to the WorldTeam. This is our case. This is a measure that we asked the UCI to implement for some time. We had anticipated it, and with the creation of the continental team last year, we were ready to get into it as soon as it would be confirmed. Now it is. Basically, you can bring, at the same time, up to four riders from the development team to the WorldTeam if these are Class 1 races. If this is an UCI Pro Series event, you can take a maximum of two riders from your development team. We were hoping to have this opportunity to exchange riders for a very long time. As the name reminds it, the development team is there to develop young talents. So what could be better than a sort of internship?
“We will really count on our young riders”
Can this be compared to the trainees that the teams usually test over the last part of the season?
They are kind of trainees indeed, but throughout the year. Spots are already saved for them on some races, even if it means putting our WorldTeam riders in a bit of a competition. For example, there was a spot booked for the Tour of Algarve and another for the Tour du Haut-Var even if we could have candidates within our own roster. We decided this winter that we would make room for the young guys of the development team on certain events. We had identified these good-level races at the start of the season, there will be another phase around March, more French Cup orientated. We have pointed out several periods, and we will make even more room for them at the end of the season.
While taking into account the initial development team schedule.
Obviously! We will respect their own schedule. They have the priority. We have already given Jérôme Gannat (sports director) and Jens Blatter (manager) the spots and the dates that are available until the Tour de France. We will figure the rest out a little later. Above all, what shows that this project is important to us, is that we haven’t saved spots for them in races where we were missing guys, or in ‘C’ teams. For example, Jake Stewart will go to the Algarve with Stefan Küng and Lars van den Berg to the Haut-Var with Thibaut Pinot. It’s not small matter. We will really count on them. They will immediately be in conditions to go for the victory with the leaders, they will not be there just as spectators. They’re not here to fill the holes, although it is possible that we have to call on them once in a while to complete a weakened roster. The main idea is to offer them the opportunity to ride and learn with the WorldTeam.
Will everyone have the opportunity to experience it?
This obviously concerns the riders who have the level closest to the WorldTeam one. It’s not really a test, it is more an integral part in their progression. However, it will be very difficult to get everyone involved, especially considering the age of some. They must have a certain level, they must put on a good work and we must have many guarantees from the development team’s sports directors or coach, especially on the rider’s commitment. It has to make sense. We don’t want to send them into the firing line.
“The whole idea is to develop the riders”
Is it another opportunity to further strengthen the bridge between the Development team and the WorldTeam?
We have been very attentive to the work done by the continental team in its first year. We reaped the rewards quite quickly with the arrival of Kevin Geniets, who gave us satisfaction. Alexys Brunel and Simon Guglielimi took the same path during the winter and are immediately ready. This reinforces our idea that the Conti must really be our reserve team and that we should seek our future riders in there. We fully trust them and the first experiences have brought us guarantees.
Would it be possible that some riders have their cards to play during their “internship”?
Why not, but the first goal for them will be to discover and work for the team. Still, on the Tour of the Algarve for example, we notified Jérôme Gannat and Jens Blatter that we were keeping a spot for a sprinter. It was decided way beforehand, and they told us that Jake Stewart could be very interesting, that he was physically ready. So he’s a rider who will have some freedom. He will be able to do the sprints with his abilities. If he manages to get some results, we will obviously be doubly delighted, but like his colleagues of the continental team, he is a rider who may be called upon to join the WorldTeam in the years to come. In which case, he will be ready and will already know part of the team.
The rule also says that riders from the “mother” team may also participate in certain races with the development one. Is it something you could do?
It is, and it is already planned for the Samyn. Our development team will be at the start but only with young riders. So they asked us for a road captain, an experienced guy to guide them, because it certainly is a high level race for them. However, in general, the riders “loans” will naturally go more in the Conti/World Tour direction, because the interest is more obvious for our continental team. The whole idea is to develop the riders. It’s a bit like in soccer. We will have the opportunity to move up a youngster who is in good shape, who is going well, and to give him a bit of a “playing time”. This is by no means a way to fill the holes.