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Offseason Capsule: FDJ

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Hey, remember FDJ?  They were in the World Tour the whole year!

Le Tour de France 2017 - Stage Four Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

There’s a pretty crowded field for the unwanted title of “most anonymous team in the peloton, 2017” but FDJ are right up there. This is a team with two big-name riders, both of whom delivered what we could expect, but were never spectacular.

What we said last year

We didn’t. In fact, I could be wrong, but I think the last time we talked about these guys was back in 2013, when Jens was talking about young talents Pinot and Demare.

So, let me use this space to plug the fact that we’ll be covering all World Tour teams with an offseason capsule this, uh, offseason. Plenty to get our teeth into, so be ready with your snark.

What we got in 2017

We didn’t get much, really. Pinot lurked throughout the Giro without really threatening the leaders. He made it onto the virtual podium with a win on the penultimate stage, only to lose his place in the concluding time-trial. Arnaud Demare looked good through the Classics and is an emerging threat in that world, but didn’t win anything of particular note. He did take a stage of the Tour and was a points contender before falling ill, and missing the time cut on stage 9.

All in all, this was a year of close, but no cigar.

FSA-DS Ranking 2017

14th. Solidly mid-pack, with the big names Demare and Pinot scoring well. I think this overstates their success slightly, as they did this with lots of 3rd-10th type finishes, rather than big wins.

Top Highlights

1. Demare (in the French Champions’ jersey, no less) winning a tough uphill sprint into Vittel. Any time a French team picks up a Tour win, it’s a highlight. This one thrust him into green, too.

2. Pinot winning in Asiago, on the tough Monte Grappa stage that was the last road stage of the Giro. Until then, he’d climbed very well through the race without reward and this was hard-earned on a big stage.

Pinot reaps the reward after a hard Giro
Luk Benies/Getty Images

3. David Gaudu winning stage 3 of the Tour de l’Ain. I know that Pinot was with him and took the overall, but I wanted to give Gaudu a mention and this was his personal highlight. At just 21, the 2016 Avenir winner showed throughout the season that he’s a climber to be reckoned with at this level, and he’s one of the most exciting talents in France right now. Not that it proves much, but 14th in the Tour de l’Ain prologue suggests he at least owns a TT bike, which isn’t nothing.

Bottom Lowlights

1. The green jersey competition in this year’s Tour was a catalogue of what-ifs, but Demare’s illness robbed him of a chance to compete. It is hard to believe there wasn’t more than one win coming from him had he stayed healthy.

2. Sebastien Reichenbach suffered a nasty injury, breaking his elbow and pelvis racing at Tre Valle Varesine. An injury like that effectively wipes out the offseason of a talented rider in what remains a shallow team, but it was made far worse by the allegation that he was deliberately pushed from his bike by Gianni Moscon. Let’s hope for a quick recovery for the rider, and that the distractions and nonsense away from the road don’t tie up the team for too long.

3. I’m nit-picking slightly, because there isn’t much wrong, but am I the only one who thought we’d have seen more from Arthur Vichot by now? He should be in his prime and seems ideally suited to the Ardennes races, but after a great early season managed only 14th in Amstel Gold, 34th in Fleche, and 86th in Liege.

Comings and goings for 2018

In: Ramon Sinkeldam (Team Sunweb), Georg Preidler (Team Sunweb), Antoine Duchesne (Direct Energie), Valentin Madouas (Neo-Pro), Romain Seigle (Neo-Pro), Bruno Armirail (Neo-Pro).

Gent-Wevelgem Cycle Race
Sinkeldam will be a big help to Demare on roads like this
Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos - Velo/Getty Images

Out: Odd Christian Eiking (Wanty-Groupe Gobert), Arnaud Courteille, Kevin Reza, Lorrenzo Manzin, Johan Le Bon and Marc Fournier (Vital Concept), Cedric Pineau (Retires), Jérémy Maison (Team Fortuneo - Oscaro).

Extended: Benoît Vaugrenard, Mickael Delage, Ignatas Konovalovas, Matthieu Ladagnous, Daniel Hoelgaard.

Lots of activity there, but we may be seeing addition by subtraction. Odd Christian Eiking appears to have been a square peg in a round hole, as nobody denies his talent but he was clearly unhappy and the results weren’t there. Lots of others on the way out had relatively limited impact.

Of those coming in, Ramon Sinkeldam is a very nice foil for Demare, as he’ll be well-placed to help him both in the Classics and the sprints. He’s an underrated rider and a good signing. Georg Priedler is a solid engine who’ll help in all conditions. None of the neo-pros look to have the talent of Gaudu but they’ll have chances to develop.

Most intriguing rider

This remains a two-man team and I think Pinot is the more intriguing of the pair. Having started his career as a one-trick pony he’s improved his TT, and his 9th in Strade-Bianche shows he can handle unusual surfaces. He’s not a truly elite climber, but he isn’t far off that level. Still in his peak years, it is three years since his Tour podium and it’d be good to see him return to that level. He has the potential to contend in monuments and grand tours, and the margin separating a solid season (2017) from a spectacular (2018?) is not huge.

So, what happens next?

As I see it, 2018 is a year of three goals for FDJ. The first is supporting Pinot wherever he goes (and I expect that to be the Tour) with the best climbers and rouleurs they can produce. The second is supporting Demare, who is one of many hardmen/sprinters who can be competitive from Milan-San Remo through to Paris-Roubaix, and then turn around and be competitive in GT sprints. The third is developing Gaudu. Dovetailing that with Pinot’s ambitions will be challenging but as a WT squad there will be plenty of opportunities to do both.

2018 should look a lot like 2017, but with a strong possibility of achieving a more prominent victory or two, whether in a monument or a Grand Tour.

David Gaudu - a big future and a tremendous painface
Josep Lago/Getty Images