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Total Direct Energie boss laments racing for points

Direct Energie won the season rankings to earn automatic bids for the major races, but team changed tactics to do it.

Total Direct Energie will have access to all the WorldTour races in 2020, but team boss Jean-René Bernaudeau isn’t happy how the team got there.

The French pro continental team won the top spot in the season rankings, thus earning it access to all the calendar’s major races, including the Tour de France. Bernaudeau said he had to compromise his racing style to secure the top ranking.

“I had banned the words ‘top 10’ and ‘UCI points’ from my dictionary, because the race became a game of numbers and boring,” Bernaudeau told L’Equipe. “But I had to use them again now.”

Bernaudeau’s Total Direct Energie finished off 2019 strong, earning just enough points in the closing races based on placement to bounce ahead of in the season-ending professional continental team rankings. According to qualification rules, the leader of the end-of-season ranking earns automatic bids to all the WorldTour events the following season.

Bernaudeau can skip out on certain WorldTour races if he wants to, opening the door for other teams to vie for an invitation.

Bernaudeau, who has long been an opponent of utilizing such things as ear-pieces and power meters during racing, said he was forced to compromise his strategy of only racing for victories in order to chase points in the closing events of the year.

“Riders would rather have a place in the top-10 with the points than to take the risk of winning the race,” he said. “We have been obsessively racing to score as many points as possible and we were at the top.”

That goes against Bernaudeau’s swashbuckling racing style as a manager, who has built his teams with aggressive tactics on a lower-tier budget. Since the formation of the team in 2000 — first with Bon Jour, Bouygues Telecom and Europcar — Bernaudeau has been a defender of old-school tactics and resistor to many of the evolutions and changes entering the sport.

“A strategy is determined during a race briefing, but power meters and UCI points should not be decisive in a race,” Bernaudeau told L’Équipe. “It’s what the fans want to see. In the Tour, the spectators were there because Thibaut Pinot and Julian Alaphilippe had the panache to attack. The audience loved it. Nobody can argue with that. I don’t think they needed an earpiece in that final in Saint-Etienne, or on the Tourmalet. They chose the moment.”

Despite his hesitancy, Bernaudeau admitted the team will likely race in a similar strategy next year to try to win the series category, set to be called ProSeries in 2020.

As 19 teams are set to be in the WorldTour for 2020, competition to earn wild-card bids for the major races, especially the Tour de France, will be even more important.

“We will want to continue to score points to maintain our first place, but that will not be easy,” he said. “Arkéa-Samsic has signed Quintana and Bouhanni, so a place in the Tour will become more expensive in the future.”