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Team presentation AG2R La Mondiale cycling team 2009

Added: tuesday 27 January 2009 at 23:59:00
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    Team presentation AG2R La Mondiale cycling team 2009This morning the official presentation of the AG2R La Mondiale cycling team for 2009 took place at the head office of the insurance company with the same name. Still with 30 riders, of whom 7 new, and with 11 nationalities, a very polyvalent team was presented to the press. I was one of the happy few being able to assist to the presentation and in this article you'll be able to discover all the details!

    The presentation

    As usual for the French teams, the voice of the Tour, Daniel Mangeas, was the voice of the presentation. Suffering from a bronchitis treated with antibiotics, he was still able to show that he knows the riders very well and to provide a short personal story about all of them.

    First of all Daniel Mangeas welcomed everyone in the room before handing over the microphone to André Renaudin, AG2R La Mondiale's General Director and a big fan of cycling himself. Mister Renaudin welcome the press and photographers but also especially the other sponsors of the team (see at the end of this article), the people representing Amaury Sports Organisation with which AG2R La Mondiale has a partnership to be present on all the races organised by A.S.O. with 6 information and regulation motors, the French Gendarmerie with its captain Eric Luzet and the lieutenant who escort the cycling races, people from Vélo Club La Pomme Marseille (which recently announced a partnership with Prémalliance ; Prémalliance is a partner of AG2R La Mondiale), three Club des 12 including the one from the Nord in which Mister Renaudin rides himself and finally Fabienne Thibeault (a Canadian writer/singer), the team's godmother in 2009.

    Cyril Dessel at the finish in JausiersA 7 minute video of the Tour de France and a look behind the scenes was than shown. It showed the team's activities in the Tour de France 2008 with especially the stage win by Cyril Dessel during the 16th stage on 22 July 2008, between Cuneo and Jausiers (see photo), but also the inflatable tent the company set up close to the finish line of each of the stages.

    After this video, Daniel Mangeas asked André Renaudin to provide a short summary of the team sponsoring in 2008: We are very happy with the first year we sponsored the team under the new AG2R La Mondiale name. 7000 keen employees and members of the company's management board have followed the team's news, especially during the Tour de France. On 18 January 2008, AG2R La Mondiale was created and thanks to the cycling team our new name was visible to many people only a few days later at the Tour Down Under.
    The advertising equivalence
    (the amount of money which a company would need to invest in advertising to get the same brand visibility) of the team has risen 60% compared to 2007, to 47 million euros and 2,8 billion of contacts have been created.
    I was able to see myself how that works in the Tour de France during the beautiful stage from Pau to Hautacam on 14 July 2008
    .

    After these words, Yvon Breton, AG2R La Mondiale's secretary, took the microphone to present the activities around the team sponsoring, as well internally in the company and externally: Internally, two thirds of our employees have been able to play an online game, especially during the Tour de France and cycling has really become a federating theme between employees. The day Cyril Dessel won his stage on the Tour de France we were probably less productive than usual because everyone lived this moment live with him and even though he didn't dare to raise his arms before he crossed the line, many of our employees did it for him.
    Externally we had our mobile sales office
    (the inflatable tent close to the finish line) on the Tour de France, in which we welcomed about 35,000 visitors who participated in some games but who also discovered our work which is to insure people. Finally, on the Tour we had our public relations programme in which we were able to invite 1,000 relations while -looking at the people from A.S.O.- we would have loved to add an extra zero to this number of people!.

    Daniel Mangeas than handed over the microphone to Loïc Varnet, the Director of Chambéry Cyclisme Formation (CCF), who explained that this programme which combines professional education (a personal project) with a preparation for the career of a professional cyclist, now exists 7 years and that the programme has already proven to be successful with 7 riders who have become professional rider in the last two years and especially Guillaume Bonnafond who will be part of the professional AG2R La Mondiale team in 2009. The CCF's programme is especially based on important values in sport and ethics (with respect to rules, respecting the management, race organisers, commissioners, health and the rider himself) and on a the attention which is paid to the riders every day by them being at the same place in Chambéry.

    Vincent LavenuFinally Vincent Lavenu, AG2R La Mondiale cycling team's general manager, briefly summarised the 2008 season and presented the goals for 2009. First of all he indicated that the values which are used by Chambéry Cyclisme Formation are also those of the professional cycling team and that the team works every day on these values to make sure they are shared by the team's members.

    Vincent said he was happy with the team's results in 2008 and especially the Tour de France with Cyril Dessel's stage win and the second place in the team ranking at the finish in Paris, but also with the Tour de Catalogne, the Vuelta and Paris-Nice ... that is, especially the stage races. Indeed, since several years now, the team is very strong in stage races but has a blank period in March/April with the one day classics. Vincent Lavenu confirmed there was still a lot of work to do there and that physical problems only partly explained the absence of good results in 2008 in this period, but that in 2009 the team will especially work on the team selection for these races with experienced riders on the French races accompanying the young riders. By the way, AG2R La Mondiale made a good start in 2009 with the 4th place in the Tour Down Under for Martin Elmiger.

    On Ivan Basso and Lance Armstrong's comeback in professional cycling, Vincent said that Basso has finished his punishment so he's allowed to come back; he now has to show that he is a real champion and while doing so he will probably be watched very closely by the UCI and I cannot judge Armstrong's comeback to say that it's good or bad, I can only say that I saw in Australia - where I was last week - that he still attracts the media as no other rider does. Now for the question whether he'll come back to the highest level, I think he's able to do so based on what I saw and the way he was riding last week.
    On Daniel Mangeas' question on this topic he said to be happy with the better relations between UCI and the organisors of the three Grand Tours: cycling needs a calm period now and I think we now come to a point where we can pick the fruit of the work which has been done by all the people in cycling in the past few years.

    The presentation of the riders

    The team has hired as many riders as the number of riders who left the team: 7 new riders join the team - 3 neo-profs and 4 experienced riders.

    Guillaume Bonnafond (néo-pro)
    With his 21 years (born on 23 June 1987) this French rider is the youngest in the team. He joins the professional AG2R La Mondiale team from the training team Chambéry Cyclisme Formation and is a climber.

    Aurélien Clerc
    This 29 year old Swiss rider (born on 26 August 1979) is a professional since 2001 and already knew 14 victories in his professional career. He comes from the Bouygues Telecom team and has a profil of a rider with a lot of endurance / sprinter. According to Vincent Lavenu he wants to get a new start of his career at AG2R La Mondiale and thus thinks he will soon be on the stand after one of his races. This very talented guy added himself that he wants to show what he's capable of in Gent-Wevelgem which is the race which fits him best and in Paris-Roubaix.

    Alexander Efimkin
    The Russian twins finally reunited in one team, Alexander joins his brother Vladimir from the Quick Step team. According to Daniel Mangeas we can recognise this 27 year old explosive rider (born on 2 December 1981) by his birthmark on his chin and a scar on his forehead.

    Sébastien Hinault
    Vincent Lavenu said about this 34 year old French rider (born on 11 February 1974) that he's a very experienced rider who I'm happy to have been able to get from the Crédit Agricole team so he can help the young riders in the team. In the AG2R La Mondiale in 2009 he will do his 13th year as a professional and he doesn't see this as a new start but as a new challenge. He will have a very long season because he wants to be good in Milan-San Remo (21 March) and in Paris-Tours (11 October).

    Blel Kadri (néo-pro)
    This French rider is only 22 years old (born on 3 September 1986) and joined the team as a trainee at the end of the 2008 season. Vincent Lavenu said that seeing him with the pros was a reward for all what he showed so far.

    Nicolas Roche
    Nicolas Roche probably doesn't only want to be seen as the son of Stephen Roche but more specifically as a good Irish rider who, according to Vincent Lavenu, is a very promissing rider who will show what he's capable of at the highest level in 2009. He's 24 and joined the team, just like Sébastien Hinault, when the Crédit Agricole team disappeared.

    Gatis Smukulis (néo-pro)
    This young Latvian rider joined the AG2R La Mondiale team at 21 years (born on 15 April 1987) as a rider of the Classics and he's one of the riders on who the team counts for the one day Classics. Vincent Lavenu explained that he has the same kind of profile of a sprinter who's capable of going over mountains as the Swiss rider Martin Elmiger.

    Guillaume Bonnafond Aurélien Clerc Alexander Efimkin Sébastien Hinault Blel Kadri Nicolas Roche Gatis Smukulis

    23 riders will remain loyal to the AG2R La Mondiale team in 2009 to form a very international team which wants to be visible in the world of cycling the whole year long.

    Stéphane GoubertStéphane Goubert
    The oldest French professional rider will soon be 39 (born on 13 March 1970) and is still in good shape as a climber, especially in the Tour de France. When I asked him why he decided to do one year more he first said it's also one year less ... indeed, when you speak about the number of years which remain until the end of his professional career! He than explained that he takes the decision every year during the Tour de France: I thought I was still in a good shape, comparable to the one I had in the Vuelta in 2007 (where he finished 13th and best French rider). If the reality of the terrain than shows that it still works like I want to I know that I take the right decision to continue ... it at least means that I don't have to come back! (guess who's he's thinking of ;-)

    For me the second part of the season is the most important part, from May/June, it has always been like that. The start of the season is for me a way to get back in shape. My programme is quite important anyway with the Etoile de Bessèges, the Tour of California, Paris-Nice and the Critérium International where I will help our leaders. I will than continue with the Dauphiné and the Tour de France and maybe the Vuelta, at least I would like to do it but the decision has not been taken yet.

    Last year I talked about the new bike, the BH G4, with Stéphane and he told me that his first experience was good and that BH was listening to the feedback of the team. I asked him what he thought of it now and he told me that the bike has become much better: the new generation is coming and it's called, not really surprisingly, the G5 ... when they get to the G8 they'll probably have a naming problem. The G4 was already a very good bike but BH listened very carefully to our feedback so they can remove the few defaults which remain with this bike to get to the G5. It will probably be ready in May/June.

    Thanks Stéphane for your time!

    Tadej Valjavec
    A 31 year old Slovenian rider (born on 13 April 1977) who was presented with the néo-pro Blel Kadri as two very complete riders of the team.

    Martin Elmiger
    With Aurélien Clerc, Martin Elmiger gets a Swiss compatriot in the team. This 30 year old rider (born on 23 September 1978) has finished 4th in the Tour Down Under and hopes to be good in the Classics in 2009.

    Alexandr PliuschinAlexandr Pliuschin
    With his Moldavion champion kit he's easy to recognise on the team photo! He's become professional last year with AG2R La Mondiale and Vincent Lavenu said he's a diamant many teams were interested in, but he's worked on his French in Chambéry and decided to join our pro team.

    Cédric Pineau
    Cédric Pineau's father first was a team mate and than a rider in the team of Vincent Lavenu and Vincent now manages his son. Cédric wants to succeed and will definitely be on the stand in 2009. He suffered from the glandular fever in 2008 but is back in shape in 2009. He'll start the season with the Tour of Qatar.

    Stéphane Poulhiès
    This 23 year old rider (born on 26 June 1985) has, according to Vincent Lavenu, a very high potential: 2009 is an important year for him but he has everything to succeed.

    Vladimir Efimkin
    After having asked Vincent Lavenu to get his brother in the team, the Russian twins are finally reunited within AG2R La Mondiale. Vladimir is a promissing rider, especially on the Tour de France.

    José Luis Arrieta
    This Spanish rider is seen as the team captain who knows how to take the lead in the Tour de France and is loved by everyone.

    Tanel Kangert
    The Estonian rider joined the team as a néo-pro last year and had some knee problems which are still going on, but once they're gone he will get back to the highest international level.

    Julien Loubet
    This French climber is part of the team since 2005 when he became a professional.

    Cyril DesselCyril Dessel
    One of the best French riders who, according to Vincent Lavenu, is first-rate guy who (last year) allowed the team to start believing in it's success again after a bad start of the season. He's not only a very good rider but he's also very nice. He will start the season with the Etoile de Bessèges, the Tour of California and Paris-Nice.

    In an interview after the presentation he said about this start of the season that it's a good work load followed by 15 days to recover. He wants to be in shape in Paris-Nice.
    Concerning the changes in the team he said the new riders are complementary, especially for the Classics, while the team keeps the qualities it needs for stage races. He wants to give the example to the young new riders, especially during the training camps because we don't see each other very often outside.
    Concerning the bike, he's happy with the BH G4 and is looking forward to the G5 but in the mean time he would have preferred to have a new group on it, now only the saddle changes. Indeed, AG2R La Mondiale now uses Prologo saddles.

    Blaise Sonnery
    In the team since 2007, this 23 year old French rider (born on 21 March 1985) stays loyal to the team.

    John Gadret
    Even though the press file qualifies him as a climber / cyclo-cross specialist he decided not to do the cyclo-cross season this year and to focus on the road season. He seemed to regret this choice a little bit, even though he knows he can now put everything on the road season and work on my climbing qualities. He will do the Giro because the mountains in there perfectly fit his profile.

    Ludovic Turpin
    He's loyal to the team since 2000 and is accepted by everyone in the team: he's a real communicator and when someone asks him what he wants for 2009 he answer he would just like to be back in good health.

    Jean-Charles Sénac
    Sénac arrived together with Alexandr Pliuschin from Chambéry Cyclisme Formation in 2008 and the climber stays loyal to AG2R La Mondiale in 2009.

    Hubert Dupont
    He's a rider with a lot of endurance, very solid and very serious according to Vincent Lavenu.

    René Mandri
    This Estonian rider is a brilliant guy with lots of qualities who made his come back at the end of last year after his serious fall in the Giro.

    Rinaldo NocentiniRinaldo Nocentini
    The team's Italian rider knows the team is expecting a lot of him at the start of the year and he's always smiling and is thus highly appreciated by his team mates. His main goals are the Flèche Wallonne and Milan San Remo.

    Nicolas Rousseau
    He became a professional rider in 2007 with AG2R La Mondiale and will spend less time on the track and more time on the road in 2009.

    Christophe Riblon
    He'll also spend less time on the track ... Vincent Lavenu said he's good, fast and clever on the road.

    Renaud Dion
    2009 is a very important year for him. Renaud is a sprinter so he can get a victory fast: he's a fast guy who's good in the Classics.

    Yuriy Krivtsov
    Vincent Lavenu especially mentioned the fact that this Ukranian rider is so nice and able to help others, but the most important news probably was that he really likes France and has applied for the French citizenship (he's a member of the team since 2004).

    Lloyd Mondory
    This 26 year old French rider (born on 26 April 1982) is sharp, clever and fast and according to Vincent Lavenu we will see the result of that this year.

    The official AG2R La Mondiale 2009 team photo

    > Click here to see all my pictures of the official AG2R La Mondiale 2009 team presentation

    The team's other sponsors

    In addition to AG2R La Mondiale the other sponsors of the team are BH for the bikes, Elite for the water bottles, bidon holders, tools and massage products, Biemme for the cycling kit, Time for the pedals, Mavic for the wheels, Spiuk for the helmets, Michelin for the tyres, Prologo for the saddles, Cristaline for the mineral water, Planete by ForMen for casual clothing, the Corbier ski station, Morgan Blue for the maintenance products, Carrosserie Peinture MENDES, Saint-Siffrein, Floressance for the nutritional supplements, Shemsy for clothing, Vision for the tail feather, Sigma for the bike computers, R Janin, FSA, Marie Dolin for the fruit syrup and Jardin Bio for biological nutrition.
    The AG2R La Mondiale team's other sponsors


    The official team photo as supplied by the team - © Presse Sports (S Mantey & B Papon)

    by Thomas Vergouwen
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