Winning the Tour de France is a plan, not a dream for Team FDJ
Team Sky were ridiculed in the peloton when they claimed at their 2009 launch they would win the Tour de France within five years with a British rider, but were able to silence the doubters when Bradley Wiggins triumphed in 2012.
Paris: Team Sky were ridiculed in the peloton when they claimed at their 2009 launch they would win the Tour de France within five years with a British rider, but were able to silence the doubters when Bradley Wiggins triumphed in 2012.
National lottery-funded Team FDJ have just set themselves a similar goal and the French outfit, who have developed a state of the art coaching structure, should be given more credit for their claim than Sky were.
"Yes, we can," a fired up Marc Madiot, the general manager, said in front of a bemused crowd at the team`s electric-blue lit presentation ceremony in a cabaret-like atmosphere on Wednesday.
"Some 10-15 years ago I would have said it`s not possible but now we can do it in the mid-term," the former Paris-Roubaix winner added.
After all, FDJ helped big prospect Thibaut Pinot claim third place in last year`s Tour at the age of 24.
Pinot`s instinctive, aggressive riding and outstanding physical abilities indeed make him a credible Tour contender even though he may be a little behind the very best riders, whom he notes "are in their thirties".
"I hope to improve and be at their level in two or three years," added the rider, who claimed the white jersey for the highest under-25 finisher.
"I still need a bit experience, a bit of power."
His abilities have gradually improved since he jumped into the limelight by finishing 10th overall on his Tour debut in 2012, becoming the youngest rider to finish in the top 10 in more than 60 years.
"We need to preserve what has been going well and add little new things at training," performance director Frederic Grappe told Reuters.
"He`ll have a tailor-made bike for the mountain stages, very light. He already feels the difference.
"We`ll be working on specific exercises this season, such as acceleration... he needs to be efficient in the mountains, to be able to respond to attacks.
"We also put an emphasis on his team mates, they need to be stronger, there`s major work needed on that," Grappe added.
To help them improve, FDJ have beefed up their training staff for 2015, with three full-time coaches assisting the riders throughout the year.
Former professional Sebastien Joly, David Han and Julien Pinot (Thibaut`s older brother) have joined Grappe to form a formidable outfit unrivalled in France.
Team Sky have six coaches at their disposal but FDJ, who have been in the sport since 1997, were in no mood to wait for the British outfit`s arrival to pioneer work on equipment, power or recuperation, having introduced cryotherapy to cycling.
Even if they have a relatively tight budget of 12 million euros ($13.61 million), about half of Team Sky`s estimated outlay, FDJ remain confident they can mix it with the best.
"We`ve asked our partners to develop specific equipment material for our leader," Grappe, a curious mind who spends his time looking for and detailing new ideas, explained.
With 25 of their 29 riders hailing from France, FDJ will also benefit from the invaluable experience of Swiss rider Steve Morabito, who helped Cadel Evans win the Tour de France in 2011.
"He`s bringing us a lot of information," Grappe said of Morabito, who was hand-picked by Pinot himself.
The Tour de France is not the team`s only goal this season, however, as FDJ are also pinning their hopes on French champion Arnaud Demare and Arthur Vichot to vie for victory in the classic one-day races.