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When French grand tour stalwart Ag2r-La Mondiale introduced it will likely be pivoting to the spring classics in 2021, everybody reacted with a collective, “huh?”
With the arrival of recent co-sponsor Citroën for subsequent season, it appeared like a really odd transfer for the long-running French workforce to show its again on its everlasting quest for the yellow jersey. In any case, it had come nearer than it ever needed to Tour de France glory with podiums because of Jean-Christophe Péraud and Romain Bardet. Plus, it’s by no means received one among biking’s cherished monuments throughout a franchise historical past that dates again to the early Nineties.
However that’s precisely what’s occurring in 2021. The workforce jettisoned Bardet and promising GC rider Pierre Latour — or had them employed away by rival groups — and signed on a platoon of cobble-bashers for subsequent season.
With the arrival of Greg Van Avermaet, Bob Jungels and Micky Schär, there’s little question the place the workforce’s ambitions will lie in 2021.
In actual fact, Lavenu enthusiastically supported Bardet’s high-profile transfer to Sunweb on a two-year deal. Bardet evidently had second ideas concerning the knowledge of his imminent swap when the COVID-19 pandemic swept Europe. Like many of the different French groups, Lavenu’s outfit is on strong monetary footing, and there have been no wage reductions in 2020. At 30, Bardet believed a brand new problem that can assist kick-start his stalled GC trajectory is paramount to any monetary dangers.
Additionally exiting Lavenu’s crew are three equally vital core riders, together with Latour, Alexis Vuillermoz and Alexandre Geniez, who all transfer to crosstown rival Crew Complete Direct Energie. That French workforce plans to remain in biking’s second division, however the trio of Ag2r alumni will assist guarantee its annual wild-card invitation to the Tour de France.
With the flurry of strikes, everybody questioned if longtime boss Vincent Lavenu was hitting the absinthe within the low season, however he insists his newfound classics focus is a component of a bigger plan.
Lavenu guarantees the pivot to biking’s monuments is just non permanent, and he vows to rebuild the workforce’s Tour de France ambitions from the bottom up with a youthful fleet of promising GC riders.
“We’re transferring towards the classics in 2021 however it’s a transition 12 months,” Lavenu advised French media. “We’re not speaking about altering the tradition of our workforce. We’re wanting ahead to the workforce’s future ‘post-Bardet,’ and it’s a fascinating problem. We is not going to chorus from returning to the grand excursions in an enormous means. We’ve younger riders with very good climbing qualities. Our energy and our DNA has at all times been coaching. The proof of that’s Romain.”
Van Avermaet and Co. will hyperlink up with the workforce’s present classics squad, anchored by Oliver Naesen and Silvan Dillier. The workforce has seen a string of current monument success — the Swiss rider was second to Peter Sagan within the 2018 Paris-Roubaix and Bardet was third within the 2018 Liège-Bastogne-Liège, and Naesen was second within the 2019 Milano-Sanremo — and Lavenu is about on profitable one among them as soon as and for all.
The workforce’s classics emphasis has at all times been there. It’s simply going to “11” in 2021.