PARIS (AFP) — The search for a new sponsor to replace Europcar at the head of one of France’s longest-running professional teams is over. The Pro Continental outfit will become team Direct Energie for 2016. Jean-René Bernaudeau’s team will feature French talent, notably Thomas Voeckler and Sylvain Chavanel, who is transferring from IAM Cycling.
Chavanel, 36, will return for the next two years to the team he had left in late 2004. He is a seven-time French national champion — six times in the time trial, once in the road race. He has also won three stages of the Tour de France.
Another notable addition is Adrien Petit, who will transfer from Cofidis. The 24-year-old will likely serve as lead-out man for sprinter Bryan Coquard, who has earned four of the team’s nine victories to date in the 2015 season.
Bernaudeau’s team has existed in some form since 2000. It was first sponsored by Bonjour (2000-2002), then Brioches la Boulangère (2003-2004), Bouygues Telecom (2005-2008), Bbox Bouygues Telecom (2009-2010), and finally Europcar (since 2011). Europcar announced last season that it would discontinue sponsorship at the close of 2015. “We will have 20 or 21 riders next year,” said Bernaudeau. He explained that the team is pulling from the amateur ranks, notably the Vendée U team, to fill out its roster. Neo-pro additions include: Lilian Calmejane, Romain Cardis, Jérémy and Fabien Cornu Grellier.