Despite failing to win a stage last year, Saur-Sojasun was likely invited back to this yearâ€™s Tour de France for the simple reason that the team contains one of the most promising your French stage racers not named Pierre Rolland. Iâ€™m referring of course, to Jerome Coppel.
Coppel finished 14th in last yearâ€™s Tour de France, a result that likely would have made him the first Frenchman in many of the Tourâ€™s most recent editions. This year though, the 25-year-old might find himself a bit higher up the general classification by the time the race endsâ€”and perhaps wearing the white jersey as Best Young Rider as well.
A two-time world time trial championship medalist as a U23, Coppel has performed well in several stage races thanks to his ability to race against the clock. His resume is full of high finishes in minor stage races, most of which came as a result of Coppelâ€™s performance in a time trialâ€”and the mountain stage coming either before or after. So while itâ€™s still much too soon to call Coppel a grand tour contender, a top-10 finish and the white jersey are realistic goals.
As for the rest of the squad, supporting Coppel while getting into as many breakaways as possible is the French teamâ€™s modus operandiâ€”look to see at least one of the teamâ€™s riders in the breakaway when TV coverage goes live each day.
Man of the Hour
Coppel is by far the teamâ€™s best rider and one of the most talented young Frenchman in the race.
Julien Simon turned heads when he won two stages at the Volta a Catalunya. He now has four wins on the season and heads to his first Tour de France hoping to score an upset in one of the raceâ€™s sprint finishes.
On the Hot Seat
Brice Feillu won a stage in the Pyrenees during the 2009 Tour de France and then dropped off the face of the earth. Well not entirely, but back-t-back decisions to sign for a team with little chance of getting a Tour invite (Vacansoleil, 2010) and another with an absolutely stacked squad (Leopard Trek, 2011), might explain the Frenchmanâ€™s absence. That said, missing two consecutive Tours means Feillu missed out on two years of progression, something he might regret during this yearâ€™s race.
Riding for a French Professional Continental team is somewhat synonymous with the term â€œunsungâ€, but each year, Jimmy Engoulvent manages to score an impressive win or two. This year, the 32-year-old won a stage and the overall title at the Four Days of Dunkirk, before winning the Prologue (and holding the leaderâ€™s jersey for four days) at the Tour of Luxembourg. A stage win at the Tour de France would be the crowning achievement of an already impressive season.
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