“The Tour de France shows no mercy”

The 2020 edition of the Tour de France came to an end on Sunday, on the Champs Elysées. While Tadej Pogacar conquered the final victory at only 21 years of age, the Groupama-FDJ cycling team completed the race in a very different way than they would have imagined a month before. In the wake of the Tour’s ending, Marc Madiot put the team’s disappointment into words but also looks towards the future with optimism.

Marc, what is your assessment of Tour de France 2020 as a General Manager?

For us, it was obviously an extremely difficult Tour de France. We never were in a position to do what we hoped to do. It got complicated straight from the start in Nice. We may not have well understood the crashes’ seriousness, as we did not see them… We always hoped for it to get better, but it never happened. Doing three weeks like that, it feels like an eternity. In terms of results, we are very far from our expectations; we are not where we wanted to be. Sébastien and Valentin’s placements are good, but we were set to do a whole different Tour.

“We need to come to terms with it”

What was your speech to the riders like on Sunday evening?

In these situations, you have to take stock of the current situation, build on what was done before – which was pretty good -, and re-mobilize for the future in order to do better as quickly as possible. We can’t stick to that forever. This Tour is not necessarily a reflection of who the riders really are and what they are worth. We can’t just dismiss what we did last year on the Tour because it didn’t go the way we wanted this year. Now we need to come to terms with it.

Do you find any positive side from these three weeks of racing?

I will remember the commitment, the professionalism and the expertise of the staff, at all levels. There was a real quality work that kept the team running. This is something important, necessary even, when you’re looking for results. The circumstances made it happen differently. We couldn’t get back on the right track because it just wasn’t physically possible for most of our riders. We were certainly offensive in the second part of the Tour, and there was certainly the will to do something good, but there was not necessarily the means to achieve it. That is why this Tour was so tough on us. The Grand Tours and the Tour in particular show no mercy. There were obviously some small satisfactions, in particular with Valentin who had a nice and good first Tour de France. That being said, the team was built for the overall around Thibaut, and we quickly found ourselves unable to meet our own expectations.

“We have strong and solid basics for the future”

Still, the riders proved to be combative…

Yes, but it’s hard to bounce back when the physical means aren’t what they should be. We always move on hoping that everything will get better along the way. That’s what drove us for three weeks, and it’s also what drives you as a rider. When you are struggling, when you’re in pain, you always think that it will be better the next day. And if things don’t get better the next day, your hopes get postponed until the next day. It’s a sporty survival instinct… If you tell yourself from the start “it won’t get better”, it really isn’t likely to get better. This survival instinct is even more intense on the Tour, and on the Grand Tours in general. In other races, the riders would not have made it until the end. It must also be said that today, the healing treatments are not the same as they were at a certain time, with regard to ethical rules, particularly in cycling. In other sports, some would surely have used different medical means to treat their athletes. But our sport has lived through difficult days and we cannot afford to use certain practices to get back on track just because we are looking for results. Therefore, it takes longer to heal, and so it is more complicated.

Looking at the Tour’s results, does the team now have to “save” its 2020 season in a way?

The Tour is a very distorting mirror. When you fail on the Tour, the rest barely exists. It is the Tour de France’s perversity, but we knew that already, there is nothing new. That being said, life doesn’t end at the Tour. The Tour is over, we can’t change the past, and the results are not what we expected, it is true. Now there have also been other races in the meantime where we have been performing well, and there will be other races soon where we can get results. This is how I see the period ahead. We must not forget that we are the French team that has won the most races this season and that we have the rider who has won the most races in the world this year. Not everything is negative.

What are your expectations for the next few weeks?

Starting this week, we have Stefan and benjamin on the World Championships time trial, and two riders, Rudy and Valentin, for the road race. I hope they will have a good race. I hope Stefan and Benjamin will be in the game for the title, and I would be surprised if one of them doesn’t step on the podium. Then, we will have the Ardennes Classics and the Giro. We have the means to be competitive everywhere and we will bounce back very quickly. We have strong and solid basics for the future. The Tour’s balance has been made, so I am now expecting results on the Giro, on the Vuelta, and the riders also have this state of mind. The goal is to end the year with victories. At the end of the day, we’re here to win races, and with this in mind, we will basically rely on everyone.