By Ryan Dabbs
Groupama-FDJ cycling team aren't satisfied with their performances in 2021, suggesting that the lack of a Grand Tour victory makes the season less successful and less memorable.
The French-based team achieved 24 victories last season, including Arnaud Démare's Paris-Tours win and Stefan Küng’s overall success at the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana. However, Groupama-FDJ assistant sports director Yvon Madiot is critical of the team's performance on the whole, expressing that he expected better with the qualities an organisation of their status possesses.
Madiot claims that the team's failure to secure a win at the Grand Tours makes the season an average one, despite their 24 victories. Consequently, Groupama-FDJ is going into 2022 more motivated to perform at a higher level.
He said: "There is the feeling that something is missing: the victory or the result we remember of. We feel there is unfinished business, despite everything else we have done. It’s frustrating. For me, it’s crystal-clear: the season isn’t really successful. There are obvious failures. The Tour was one of them. We expected a lot, we thought we had the team to be able to win on a lot of terrains.
"I insist: we lack this memorable victory. This memorable victory is also the one that makes you spend the winter in peace. We don’t have it, so it makes us spend the winter with a feeling of revenge and self-questioning. I do not tell myself 'it will be better tomorrow'. No. It just wasn’t as we hoped and we’re going to work to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
"Considering our level of organisation, the qualities and skills we have among the staff and the riders and how much our investment is, we cannot be completely satisfied with a season like this one.
"We are going to question ourselves, all of us, at every level, to go and get victory or victories that remain and make a season a success."
One of the problems that Madiot points to for the team's lack of memorable success is the lack of riders who step up when leaders, such as Thibaut Pinot or Arnaud Démare, are absent from races.
He claims that management soon realised the team didn't have many riders capable of winning at the elite races, suggesting: "When our leaders had issues, it was difficult to perform."
As a result, Groupama-FDJ has acted astutely in the rider market, focussing on bringing in two types of cyclists for next season as the team looked to strengthen in weak areas.
Madiot said: "We were looking for two profiles: climbers and sprinters. The climber profile is extremely popular and sought after. We had two great opportunities, which concluded fairly quickly because we had in front of us riders who wanted to come.
"In the case of Michael Storer, his agent called us and said he wanted to come and work with us. This is the profile we were looking for, namely the climber capable of accompanying our leaders very far, and when they are not there, of performing individually.
"We also had the case of Quentin Pacher. He wanted to come, we wanted to recruit him, because he is an offensive but also a perfectible rider. As for Bram Welten, he contacted us himself. He wanted to join a big train while having his chance from time to time, without claiming a leader status."
The predominantly French team has started to bring in more riders from outside the country in recent years too, selecting the best available cyclists, rather than based on their nationality.
Madiot continued: "There are high-performance riders on the market, and we don’t look at whether they are French or not. For me, it’s not important. We try to build the best possible team. If the skills are on the other side of the border, we have to go get them as well.
With the team also creating a UCI Continental team in 2019 too, Madiot is confident that it will come to fruition in the near future with nurtured talent they can easily promote into their WorldTour team.
"I think we can almost dream of recruiting almost exclusively from the Conti in two or three years. The prospects are promising."
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