Total Direct Energie boss, Jean-René Bernaudeau, has spoken out against his team having to sacrifice their racing style in order to secure a wildcard entry to WorldTour races next year.
The French team accumulated enough points to finish atop the Pro-Continental rankings and therefore receive a wildcard entry to any and all WorldTour events in 2020. However, Bernaudeau has said this structure makes bike races “boring” and a “numbers game”.
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“I had banned the words ‘top 10’ and ‘UCI points’ from my dictionary,” Bernaudeau told L’Equipe, “because the race became a game of numbers and boring but I have to use them again now.”
The French team amassed 5,153 points over the 2019 season, with Wanty-Gobert in close second, obtaining 5,086 points, but failed to take home any major victories this year.
“Riders would rather have a place in the top-10 with the points than to take the risk of winning the race,” Bernaudeau continued. “We have been obsessively racing to score as many points as possible and we finished at the top.”
Bernaudeau points to the likes of Julian Alaphilippe (Decuninck – Quick-Step) and Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) as to how racing should be conducted, with both riders capturing the hearts of fans during this year’s Tour as they went on the offensive to try and win the biggest race on the calendar.
“A strategy is determined during a race briefing, but power metres and UCI points should not be decisive in a race,” Bernaudeau said, having previously been outspoken against the use of power metres as well as radios during races. “It’s what the fans want to see. In the Tour, the spectators were there because Thibaut Pinot and Julian Alaphilippe had the panache to attack. The audience loved it. Nobody can argue with that. I don’t think they needed an earpiece in that final in Saint-Etienne, or on the Tourmalet. They chose their moment.”
Next season Cofidis become a WorldTour team, to swell the ranks from 18 to 19, while Israel Cycling Academy will merge with Katusha-Alpecin.
Without WorldTour status Total Direct Energie have secured a place at their home Grand Tour, with the likes of Thomas Voeckler and Lilian Calmejane having lit up the Tour de France for the team in years gone by. They won’t have to field a team at every WT event, though, opening up participation to other Pro-Continental teams.
In order to secure their Tour inclusion in future years, however, they will need a strong showing once more during the re-named 2020 ProSeries as Bernaudeau looks to amass points in a similar fashion. It won’t be easy as their competitors Arkéa-Samsic have bolstered their squad with the signing of Nairo Quintana, who secured top 10 finishes at both the Tour and Vuelta a España this year.
“We will want to continue to score points to maintain our first place, but that will not be easy,” Bernaudeau said. “Arkéa-Samsic have signed Quintana and Bouhanni, so a place in the Tour will become more expensive in the future.”