The first of three articles to focus on the popular French pro cycling team, Europcar.
July 15, 2013–Avignon, France—By Jennifer Benepe
The French team that has been sponsored by an international car rental company will announce a new co-sponsor as soon as early as one week from now.
In a press conference today the team manager Jean Rene Bernaudeau said that though Europcar will continue to sponsor their namesake team for another two years, they will only do so with a co-sponsor.
Bernaudeau confirmed that Europcar will retain their top cyclists, among them 26-year-old Pierre Rolland who held the climber’s Polka Dot jersey until Stage 15 up Mont Ventoux, and 33-year-old Thomas Voeckler who held the Yellow Jersey for 9 stages at the 2011 Tour when he also finished fourth overall.
Vowing to support existing talent on the team, but also search for new rirders, he said the team can go much farther with a co-sponsor and he “will not stop,” until they have one.
Some of the top riders could decide to switch teams. Much of that activity takes place right after the Tour, in late July. Though there is speculation that Rolland has been asked to join the Astana team he said he had heard the same rumor but that no one had contacted him.
The pressure is on for the riders to perform magic now: Though he lost points to Froome and other GC contenders on Mont
Ventoux Sunday, Rolland is still in fourth place for the Polka Dot jersey and could still achieve something this Tour akin to his 2011 stage win atop l’Alpe D’Huez over the next seven days, said Chauviere. He will have another opportunity to take a crack at l’Alpe D’Huez not once, but twice this Thursday, July 18 when Tour riders circle back and hit the mountain twice.
Voeckler who excels as a breakaway rider, and whom the French call “un puncher,” (literally a puncher,) was asked by reporters why he had not won a stage yet. “Victory is not guaranteed,” he answered, “that’s racing.” I like to fight,” he added, noting that he has fought in this Tour and all the way up to it, and because of that their team is “more satisfied” than many other teams at the Tour.
“We are very proud of what we have achieved.” Voeckler has won four Tour stages in his career with Europcar, while Rolland has won two.
Blaise Chauviere, one of the team’s Sports Directors, answered at least one question today—why Voeckler hasn’t done better in this Tour– when he said in a private interview with CI that a broken clavicle that the Frenchman sustained in April may have affected the timing of his peak fitness as he started the Tour this year.
This year the team tried to make a name for itself in the Tour, said Bernaudeau. “Rolland took a lot of risks in the Pyrenees,” he told reporters, “and I have total confidence in him.”
More on the Europcar Team to follow.