Tour de France 2012 Team Preview: Saur-Sojasun

Fotoreporter Sirotti

Despite failing to win a stage last year, Saur-Sojasun was likely invited back to this year’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. I’m referring of course, to Jerome Coppel.

Coppel finished 14th in last year’s Tour de France, a result that likely would have made him the first Frenchman in many of the Tour’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 ends—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 Coppel’s performance in a time trial—and the mountain stage coming either before or after. So while it’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 team’s modus operandi—look to see at least one of the team’s riders in the breakaway when TV coverage goes live each day.

Man of the Hour

Coppel is by far the team’s best rider and one of the most talented young Frenchman in the race.

Up-and-Comer

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 race’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 Frenchman’s absence. That said, missing two consecutive Tours means Feillu missed out on two years of progression, something he might regret during this year’s race.

Unsung Hero

Riding for a French Professional Continental team is somewhat synonymous with the term “unsung”, 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 leader’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.

Follow Whit on Twitter at @whityost

About Whit

My experiences might easily fit many cycling fans' definitions of “living the dream.” Since getting hooked on the sport watching Lance Armstrong win the 1993 U.S. Pro Championship, I've raced as an amateur on Belgian cobbles, traveled Europe to help build a European pro team, and piloted that team from Malaysia to Mont Ventoux. As a former assistant director sportif with Mercury-Viatel, I've also seen the less dreamy side of the sport – the side rife with broken contracts, infighting, and positive dope tests. These days, I live with my lovely wife in Pennsylvania and share my experiences and views on the sport at Bicycling Magazine, the Embrocation Cycling Journal, and at my own site, Pavé.
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