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FDJ brings on new sponsor, hints at Giro-Tour double for Pinot

PARIS (AFP) — French WorldTour team FDJ will be called Groupama-FDJ in 2018, boosting its budget 30 percent to 20 million euro on a three-year deal. Along with this news Wednesday, team director Marc Madiot left the door open for star rider Thibaut Pinot to race the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France in 2018.

“We turn the page on sailing, and we enter with a lot of ambitions in cycling,” said Thierry Martel, CEO of Groupama, referring to his company’s prior sponsorship of French sailor Franck Cammas.

Groupama may make a big splash in the coming season if Frenchman Pinot chooses to ride both the Giro d’Italia and the Tour de France.

Madiot said the 2018 calendar is favorable for a run at both the Giro and the Tour de France. The Tour shifted to a later date to accommodate the soccer World Cup. “What has changed is that there is another week between the two,” Madiot said.

Pinot finished fourth at the 2017 Giro, winning stage 20 along the way. The 27-year-old also thrilled home fans in 2014 with a third-place overall result at the Tour behind countryman Jean-Christophe Peraud who was second to Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida). It was the first time the French had made the Tour podium since Richard Virenque was second in 1997.

For Pinot, the Giro was his “best experience in a grand tour.” He expressed enthusiasm for the 2018 Giro route, which was revealed at the end of November.

The team is also home to sprinter Arnaud Démare, who won the 2016 Milano-Sanremo and stage 4 of the 2017 Tour de France.

In addition to WorldTour racing, Groupama-FDJ plans to launch a development team in 2019. That team is anticipated to evolve into a Continental team. This is good news for French cycling, as Continental team Armee de Terre folded in November ahead of the 2018 season.

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