2011 Tour de France – Ag2r’s Dilemma

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Only weeks ago, Ireland’s Nicolas Roche was the clear leader of Vincent Lavenu’s Ag2r-La Mondiale squad for the Tour de France. Following good showings in last year’s Tour (15th) and the Vuelta (7th), a good 2011 Tour de France didn’t seem too far off for him. Earlier this year it seemed as if Roche’s slowly improving performance had finally earned Lavenu’s blessing to be the squad’s Tour captain as Frenchman John Gadret (Ag2r’s only other GC option) was scheduled for the Giro d’Italia instead.

But Gadret‘s renaissance in this year’s Giro has catapulted the introverted climbing specialist into the spotlight. A confident late attack netted him a stage win in the early part of the race when the GC contenders weren’t giving away much leash , and consistent riding earned him 4th place overall, the best GC ride in a grand tour for a Frenchman in a long time. As a result, Lavenu is now publicly musing that Gadret should ride (he is) and perhaps lead the team at the Tour this year.

As covered by VeloNation, Gadret himself allowed this much, “If I go to the Tour, it will be as a support rider for [Jean Christophe] Péraud and Roche. It’s the same for Hubert [DuPont],” although he added, “unless I feel very strong or if Vincent asks me to fight.”

Has Vincent Lavenu lost his mind by cultivating such a convoluted leadership situation? Will Roche recover in time from his Dauphine crash? Does Ag2r have any hope of fielding both riders and not have a civil war?

Share your comments below.


About Julius

Educated by Dutch and Belgian priests halfway around the world from the cobbled classics that he loves, Julius' aspiration is to someday earn Belgian citizenship.
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4 Responses to 2011 Tour de France – Ag2r’s Dilemma

  1. Inner Ring says:

    Well it's not a great way to run the team but at the same time, Lavenu doesn't have an obvious leader. Roche is solid but hasn't yet showed progress from last year, a crash has set him back and before that, he fell apart in the Dauphiné's TT stage. J-C Péraud is an untested quantity, talented but yet to repeat the excitement from his first year on the road in 2010. Hupert Dupont will also ride and like Gadret, we'll see how he's doing after the Giro. Plus don't forget Christophe Riblon has some ambition too, he won a stage last year and is after a higher status in the team.

    Overall this looks like a team without a clear leader and increasingly without a clear strategy. They could land a stage win, maybe two, but they could also flop.

    • Doug Report says:

      RadioShack has four "leaders" but there appears to be less of a rivalry and greater teamwork than we see on some other teams.

      • Julius says:

        Inrng, you make a good point about Riblon, we'll see how it goes but last year he had a good build-up to TdF whereas this year he's been weak. I was really impressed by J-C Peraud last year, but my hunch is that he'll end up the way of J-F Bernard, meaning a very good lieutenant but not a great winner.

        Doug, maybe Bruyneel is better at disciplining his boys than Lavenu is ;-).

  2. Zinoviev Letter says:

    Gadret was excellent in the Giro, admittedly on a parcours which suited a good climber/woeful time triallist perhaps more than any GT parcours in modern history. However, last year he rode the Giro and the Tour and after a less difficult Giro was nowhere at all in the Tour. Gadret, to be blunt, is no Contador and there is no reason to expect him to be able to produce his best form in the Tour after leaving it all on the road performing heroics in the Giro. Ag2r clearly thought as much too, and didn't originally have him down to ride the Tour at all.

    The reason Ag2r has a "dilemma" is that Roche crashed in the Dauphine, which will have thrown his Tour preparations off to some, as yet unknown, degree. To add to their difficulty, their most important domestique, Blel Kadri also had to withdraw with an injury. A couple of weeks ago their decision to split their six most talented riders into a Giro team (Gadret, Dupont, Nocentini) and a Tour team (Roche, Peraud, Kadri), looked pretty good. Dupont and, in particular, Gadret really did well in the Giro. But then, after the Dauphine, they were suddenly faced with a situation where 5 of their 6 most talented riders (arguments about Dessel, Riblon and Ravard aside) are either coming back from injury or coming off a very hard Giro. That's an awful situation for the biggest French team to find themselves in just before the Tour.

    That, rather than an outbreak of complete insanity, is in my view why Lavenu is putting all of his potential GC men/climbers into the Tour team. He simply doesn't know which of them will have any form. Roche is coming off a crash. Gadret and Dupont are coming off the Giro. Peraud is completely untested at this level. And he probably figures that if all of them bomb in the GC thanks to form issues, they will still probably have enough to make decent stage hunters.

    If I was a betting man, i would guess that Roche will be the best of them in the Tour but that's purely on the assumption that his crash wasn't as bad as it looked.

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