#12 â€“ BBox – Bouyges Telecom (Preview Ranking: #20)
What We Said:
If it not for the heroics of Thomas Voeckler and Pierrick Fedrigo in last yearâ€™s Tour de France, this team might not be around this year.Â Bumped from the Pro Tour after 2009 (although donâ€™t put too much stock in that distinction), Jean-RenÃ© Bernaudeauâ€™s team comes into the 2010 season once again hoping some domestic one-day wins and perhaps a stage or two in the Tour will be enough to keep the Euros flowing to the VendÃ©e regionâ€™s home team. Â On the strength of their two stars, they make the ranking for 2010â€”barely.
The bulk of the teamâ€™s aspirations fall heavily on the shoulders of Voeckler and Fedrigo.Â Both ride aggressively in June, July, and Augustâ€”three of the biggest months in French cyclingâ€”and both exhibit the kind of spunk that most French fans seem to appreciate nowadays.Â As for the rest of the team, youâ€™ll be hearing Pierre Rollandâ€™s name a lot come the DauphinÃ©â€”heâ€™s yet another in a long line of French â€œNext Big Thingsâ€.Â While some are growing inpatient, it should be noted that heâ€™s still quite young, so thereâ€™s time for him to develop.
In the end, it all boils down to wins for BBoxâ€”any wins they can muster.Â Some are wondering if the Pro Tour snub is the beginning of the end for these plucky Frenchmen.Â Theyâ€™ll spend much of 2010 just trying to fend-off what many consider to be inevitable.
Man of the Hour: Thomas Voecklerâ€™s been a darling of French fans ever since he took the maillot jaune in the 2004 Tour.Â Luckily for him, he always manages to come through with a big win just as his stock seems to dip.Â Aside from his Tour stage last season, Voeckler narrowly missed adding a stage win in the Giro to his palmares when he finished 2nd on Stage 20â€”maybe this year he goes one better?
On the Hot Seat:Â General Manager Jean-RenÃ© Bernaudeauâ€™s got to be sweating a bit.Â Aside from the heroics of his two stars, his teamâ€™s hard-pressed for wins.Â He needs to develop some new talent quickly.Â Voeckler and Fedrigo wonâ€™t be around forever, and if his team fails to show the consistency it needs to secure long-term deals with major French sponsors, he could be out of a job.
Up-and-Comer: Everyoneâ€™s talking about Rolland, but Iâ€™m eager to see if Steve Chainel can develop into a classics rider following his strong showing in several races toward the end of cyclocross season.Â I know, cyclocross isnâ€™t always an indicator for classics success, but letâ€™s see if Chainel can make the transition from mud to asphalt in time for a top-15 result in the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.
Best Pick-Up:Â When was the last time Colnago sponsored a French team?Â This is clearly a match made in desperation. Colnago must have been desperate for a big-time teamâ€”so desperate it went to France; while BBox must have had a tough time finding a domestic sponsor willing to top Colnagoâ€™s offer.Â Regardless, look for BBox to be extra-motivated in this yearâ€™s Giro, hoping to honor Ernestoâ€™s patronage with a stage win.
Biggest Departure: Few riders left BBox following 2009, a testament as to just how dire the situation truly is.
What We Saw:
In hindsight, BBox earns a much higher ranking after doing the one thing that several teams ranked below them could not: they won the races they were supposed to win.Â Â As a French Professional Continental team fighting to find a new sponsor, world domination isnâ€™t the goalâ€”but domestic success is.Â Of BBoxâ€™s 18 victories and 42 visits to the podium in 2010, all but 16 came on French soil.
More importantly, BBox put on a show in just about every French race that mattered.Â William Bonnet kicked things off with a stage win in Paris-Nice (Thomas Voeckler came close to a second); Pierrick Fedrigo then won the â€œqueenâ€ stage and the overall at the Criterium International a little over two weeks later.Â Meanwhile, in Belgium, Steve Chainel and Sebastien Turgot were proving to be above-average flahutes, winning Stages 1 and 2 at the 3-Days of De Panne.Â Cyril Gautier then won the Route Adelie, Franck Bouyer took the Tour de Bretagne, and Pierre Rolland won a stage at the Circuit de Lorraine.
At the Giro, BBox made its presence felt too.Â First, Yukiya Arashiro took third on Stage 5 followed by Voecklerâ€™s second-place ride on Stage 12.Â Not to be outdone however, Johann Tschopp topped them both with a mountain stage win atop the Passo Tonale in Stage 20.
Back to France and the CritÃ©rium du DauphinÃ©, where Nicolas Vogondy took Stage 4 to Risoul two weeks before winning the French National ITT Championship. Voeckler won another French Championship on the road three days later.Â Heading into the Tour, it was all systems allez! for Bernaudeauâ€™s men in blue.
In France, after a quiet first two weeks, BBox hit the Pyrennees with a vengeance, taking back-to-back victories on Stages 15 and 16, thanks to Voeckler and Fedrigoâ€”a terrific haul by any modern French squadâ€™s standards. Regrettably, only one more win would follow, but it was the new Pro Tour event, the GP de Quebecâ€”chalk another victory for Voeckler.
But perhaps the squadâ€™s biggest victory was one earned off the bike, as Bernadeau announced in early October that car rental company Europcar would be taking over as the teamâ€™s title sponsor for the next 3 years.Â Unfortunately, the majority of the teamâ€™s best riders had already signed with other teams by that pointâ€”yet another case of too little, too late.Â It looks like 2011 will be another year back to the drawing for Bernadeau.
Most Valuable Rider: Thomas Voeckler won another French Championship, another Tour stage, and the new Pro Tour event in Quebec.Â For a French rider on a French team, it really doesnâ€™t get any better.Â (On second thought, thereâ€™s Paris-Roubaix, Paris-Toursâ€¦.)
Biggest Disappointment: They canâ€™t be blamed for being a bit pre-occupied (you know, trying to find a new sponsor and all), but BBox tailed-off a bit after the Tour de France.Â Voecklerâ€™s victory at the GP de Quebec was the teamâ€™s lone win, and Nicolas Vogondy and Steve Chainel were the squadâ€™s only riders to step foot on a podium.Â With important races such as Paris-Tours, Fourmies, and Isbergues on the calendar, it would have been nice to see BBox play more of a role.
Biggest Surprise: I donâ€™t know about you, but I certainly enjoyed seeing some French teams at the front of the major cobbled races this spring.Â I already mentioned Chainel and Turgotâ€™s wins in De Panne, but donâ€™t forget William Bonnetâ€”he took 10th, 11th, and 10th in Dwars door Vlaandere, the E3 Prijs, and the Tour the Flanders respectively.Â Both Bonnet and Chainel are heading to FDJ (along with Fedrigo)â€”I canâ€™t wait to see what Marc Madiot can make of them!
So there you have it–#12 in our Team-By-Team Season Review.
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