Thursday 31 January 2008 at 00h53

The AG2R La Mondiale 2008 cycling team had its official presentation today. The team, based in Chambéry, chose the (future) new head office of its main sponsor in the middle of Paris as the ideal place for this presentation and I was invited.

Daniel Mangeas, the official speaker in the Tour de France, also took up his role as speaker for this presentation (as for the presentation of almost all French teams or teams with a French sponsor) and first of all gave the floor to Arnaud Renaudin, General Manager for AG2R La Mondiale. Mister Renaudin explained that the team's presentation was also more or less a presentation of the new group since this was the first public event under the name of the group which was created from the merger between AG2R Prévoyance and La Mondiale on 16 January.

Yvon Breton, Director of AG2R La Mondiale, then took the floor to explain the insurer's activities in cycling. Indeed the company does not only sponsor the cycling team but also has a great visibility in the Tour de France and the other races organised by A.S.O. as a partner of the race organiser:

* with the information and security motors
* for its public relations in the Village Départ and for the first time in 2008 also at the Relais Etape which is at about 30 kilometers from the finish of each stage
* and with another innovation: a mobile office which will be at Paris-Nice for a start and of course in the Tour de France


The 2007 season

After the introduction of its main sponsor, Daniel Mangeas asked Vincent Lavenu - general manager of the cycling team - to discuss the highlights of the 2007 season. 2007 was for the AG2R Prévoyance team a year with many successes, including victories on the Tour Down Under (Martin Elmiger), the Dauphiné Libéré (Christophe Moreau), the Tour de l'Ain (with John Gadret as the winner and Ludovic Turpin on the second place) and one of the stages in Paris-Nice (first stage, Jean-Patrick Nazon).

Furthermore, Vincent Lavenu reminded the audience that the AG2R Prévoyance team finished 4th in the UCI ProTour ranking and explained that he was quite satisfied with the 2007 season.

The goals for 2008

As a French team, the main priority is of course the Tour de France. For this cycling monument, Vincent Lavenu counts on his new recruits Vladimir Efimkin and Tadej Valjavec and the team's young riders ... and not to forget Cyril Dessel who had a toxoplasmosis in 2007 but is working on his big comeback in 2008.
The team's goal for the Tour de France is to finish with two riders among the first 15 in the overall ranking and to take at least one stage victory.

Being based in Chambéry, the team also makes the Critérium du Dauphiné Libéré as one of its main priorities since this takes places in the same area.

The other goals are as usual the Vuelta, the Giro and the classic races for which Vincent Lavenu hopes he can count on Stijn Vandenbergh.


The new riders

The AG2R La Mondiale team is made up of no less than 30 riders and together with Cofidis they are thus the biggest ProTour team in 2008. Among these riders, 8 are new and two of them - after Blaise Sonnery in 2006 - come from Chambéry Cyclisme Formation, the team's training centre which allows young riders to work on a project which combines the professional/educational aspect with the sports aspect:

* Alexandr Pliuschin, a Moldavian rider who just turned 21
* Jean-Charles Sénac, a young 22 year old French rider, coming from Chambéry and a good climber
Jean-Charles Sénac & Alexandr Pliuschin

Vincent Lavenu said he was happy the training centre now starts to pay off the important investments and explained that 3 other riders of the training centre turned professional in other teams.

The other new riders are:

* Cédric Pineau (22), Franck Pineau's son who was part of the Chazal team when Vincent Lavenu created it (from 1992 to 1994)
Cédric Pineau

* Tanel Kangert, a young Estonian rider (20) who this year becomes professional after one year as an apprentice in the AG2R team
Tanel Kangert

* Stijn Vandenbergh, a Belgian rider (23) who became professional at last year and who - with his 1,99 m - is the biggest rider of the pack
* Christophe Edaleine who has started his carreer at Jean Delatour, then Cofidis and lastly at Crédit Agricole
Stijn Vandenbergh & Christophe Edaleine

And of course the two experimented riders Vladimir Efimkin and Tadej Valjavec. Vincent Lavenu said they'd been recruited to take the place left by Christophe Moreau: they'll have to take the leader positions themselves, but I think we will definitely see these two riders at the top in 2008.
Vladimir Efimkin Tadej Valjavec

The other riders

In addition to the 8 new riders, 22 decided to continue in the AG2R La Mondiale team.
Below the names of these riders are listed together with their nationality and the year since which they are in the team between parentheses.

The sprinters
Among these 22 riders, the team has 5 sprinters: Yuriy Krivtsov (Ukranian, since 2006) and Stéphane Poulhiès (French, rouleur/sprinter, since 2004) who - according to Daniel Mangeas - should be riding the cobbles in Paris-Roubaix in 2008, Alexandre Usov (Byelorussian, since 2005), Lloyd Mondory (France, since 2004) and Jean-Patrick Nazon (French, since 2004).

The riders of classical races
As Vincent Lavenu said the classical races are one of the team's goals and to achieve this goals the team can count on 5 experts.
First of all two riders about who he said they know how to win, they know how to go quick, they are able to do some good cycling and they now have to step up: Renaud Dion (French, since 2006) and Laurent Mangel (French, rouleur, since 2005). About the following three riders Lavenu said they were three guys who are very precious for the team: Nicolas Rousseau (French, rouleur and track rider, since 2007) who will probably participate in the Olympic Games for the track races, Rinaldo Nocentini (Italian, puncheur, since 2007) and Martin Elmiger (Swiss, since 2007).

The complete riders
Among the complete riders we find René Mandri (Estonian, since 2007) and Christophe Riblon (French, puncheur and track racer, since 2005), but also Sylvain Calzati (French, puncheur, since 2005) and José Luis Arrieta (Spanish, since 2006) who were presented by Lavenu as two guys full of temperament (sometimes even too much?!). Sylvain had some trouble in 2007 but he's working hard to regain his original shape in 2008. Arrieta represents the team's experience together with Goubert.

The climbers
Philip Deignan (Irish, since 2005) and Julien Loubet (French, since 2005) about who Vincent Lavenu said they are two very talented riders who we will see winning races in 2008 or at latest in 2009. Blaise Sonnery (French, since 2007) and Hubert Dupont (French, since 2006) are both highly motivated: professionals up to the end of their pedals.
Ludovic Turpin (French, since 2000) was then presented together with Cyril Dessel (French, since 2005) who in 2008 should get the chances he deserves (cf. my interview with Cyril below) followed by John Gadret (French, climber and cyclo-cross rider, since 2006) and Stéphane Goubert (French, since 2004).
Daniel Mangeas explained that Stéphane is the oldest rider in the team and made him smiling even more than usual by saying: but you can hardly see it, he doesn't have any wrinkles! Vincent Lavenu added: Stéphane was thinking about stopping or doing another year and - I think - he took the right decision in the end.
The AG2R La Mondiale 2008 team photo

Interview with Cyril Dessel

Cyril DesselAfter the official presentation of the AG2R La Mondiale 2008 team, Cyril Dessel answered some of my questions.

The 33-year old French rider has last year suffered from a toxoplasmosis but Vincent and the team have always been confident, as they always have since I arrived in the team in 2005, even though Vincent didn't know me well at that time and that I also missed a part of the season because of a surgery. I was able to make up for that with a good season in 2006 and this winter I worked real hard since I have great ambitions for 2008 but I have to become more confident again. The training in January (21 of the team's riders want on a training in Saint-Raphaël in the Var) reassured me. There's still a lot of work to do but I think I can do it.

I don't feel much pressure since I don't have any precise goals, I work in periods: Paris-Nice then the Dauphiné, the French Championships and the Tour de France. I now want to correctly prepare the start of the season: the Tour of course is the race, but I won't be there for a top three ranking so for the time being I focus on the other races.

We lost Christophe Moreau who gave us a lot of stability in April/May/June/July. The new leaders (Efimkin and Valjavec) are not so well known but they are very good and in the end we have a much more homogeneous team.

The new bikes - interview with the managing director of BH

The BH G4, AG2R La Mondiale's new bikeFor the AG2R La Mondiale team not only the name changes, but also their bikes ... indeed, this year the team will use bikes from the Spanish manufacturer BH. The general manager of BH Bikes, Gilles Halbwachs, gave me some further details.

BH wanted to make a come-back in a ProTour team after the bad luck we had with the Astana who couldn't start in Strasbourg for the reasons we all know. Since BH knwe that AG2R's contract with its previous supplier ended they contacted Vincent Lavenu during the Dauphiné Libéré. The French market indeed is the second market for BH and French cycling is going in the right direction and we thus hope not to have any bad surprises as we had before.

AG2R La Mondiale's bike is one from the Global Concept line with an integrated saddle pin. It's the G4 (L-97), the fourth generation, and we were looking for a partnership with a team to support the introduction of the product.
AG2R had ongoing contracts with Michelin and Mavic. The time trial bike BH LT-30 for AG2R La MondialeFurthermore, we already had a partnership with FSA for the pedals, brakes, handlebars, chains and gears. BH has thus created a product for AG2R La Mondiale around these brands. Finally we have worked with a new saddle brand for us, Prologo, which is also used by Milram, CSC and Rabobank.

For AG2R La Mondiale, the first bikes were delivered during the training in December, but we started with G3's since the G4 was not yet available. For the training in January and the Tour Down Under, the team had its own G4's.

BH also supplies the time trial bike which has a frame with a very short back-end; it's a one-piece frame with a very short steering tube (100 mm), which allows to take a more aerodynamic position.

We have a 2 year contract with AG2R La Mondiale since their ProTour licence finishes at that time. I hope we will have a fruitful cooperation. Since the start the contacts with Vincent and the riders have always been very good and we now can't wait the races to start!

Interview with Stéphane Goubert

Stéphane GoubertStéphane Goubert (French, 37), always with a smile on his face and even more when Daniel Mangeas says you can't see he's the oldest rider in the team - "not a single wrinkle", also answered some of my questions.

Stéphane, you have finished many races on the team's previous bikes, what do you think of the new BH bikes?
It's a very good bike! My first one had a small production error so it started bad for me, but my current G4 is perfect. Since the geometry of the bike is completely different there's of course an adaptation period, but that's only a matter of time. The integrated saddle pin makes the bike more rigid: that's useful in flat races or when you sit down on your saddle while climbing. Personally I use to sit on my saddle while climbing so for me this is a very good bike.
BH really listens to our comments since they want to further improve their product. They try to take them into account but since our comments are different from those they had from the other ProTour team they've been working with, they still have to make the switch.

In Octobre last year A.S.O. presented the Tour de France 2008 track, what do you think of it?
This track is interesting for a puncheur: demanding but not that hard as usual. This track looks a little bit like the Giro d'Italia and the Vuelta a España tracks over the last few years. I had a good ranking in the Vuelta ("Gouby" finished 13th and best French rider in 2007 and 29th in 2006), so I hope I will have a successful Tour 2008 as well. Anyway, I'll be at the start with a good feeling.

Some people asked me what riders do during the winter, could you describe me your winter?
In the winter we become a normal human being again, we eat like any one else and we really take some time to have fun.
In the second part of the winter we have to get back in shape by doing some other sports than cycling. Each rider chooses his own preferred sport(s), for me that's swimming and jogging.
Finally, in the third part of the winter we start training again and we again pay attention to what we eat. Based on each rider's goals we plan the different training periods and team trainings in which we will participate.

What is your programme for the start of this season?
I'll start with Bessèges, that's close to where I live (l'Etoile de Bessèges is a multiple stage race which will this year start on February 6 and run till the 10th around Bessèges; Stéphane originally comes from Montpellier), followed by the Tour du Haut-Var (24 February) and Paris-Nice (from 9 to 16 March). We'll see for the rest of the season ...

Yeah, well, Paris-Nice, we'd better say Amilly-Nice, don't you think?
Yes, that's true ... but it finishes in Nice, at least we know where we have to go! :-)

Thanks Stéphane! I hope you'll have a wonderful 2008 season!

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

door Thomas Vergouwen
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3 comments | 13507 views

this publication is published in: Team presentation 2008 | Cycling general (except Tour de France) | Marketing


There are 3 comments!
  1. Mijn reactie had natuurlijk hierbij geplaatst moeten worden, maar door het uitgebreide artikel over Francaise des jeux was ik ff in verwarring gebracht... daar ben je toch niet zelf bij aanwezig geweest?
    Anyway, ziet er allemaal weer leuk uit.

    | Meggie | tuesday 05 February 2008 om 18h31

  2. Hallo hoe kan ik aan een foto van John Gadret komen ?

    | Eef Schouten | Wednesday 07 May 2008 om 08h28

  3. Beste Eef,

    Er staat een aantal foto's van John op mijn website. U kunt deze vinden door de zoekmachine te gebruiken (als u op deze link klinkt wordt er vanzelf al naar hem gezocht). Afhankelijk van het soort gebruik van de foto, wil ik u wel vragen de copyright-regels die op deze site van toepassing zijn in acht te nemen.

    Mocht u een ander soort foto zoeken, laat het me dan gerust even weten ... misschien kan ik er wel aan komen via mijn contacten in de ploeg of anders kan ik er misschien nog één maken tijdens de Tour dit jaar :-).


    | Thomas Vergouwen | Wednesday 07 May 2008 om 21h43

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