However, having not taken a stage at their home race since 2008, the French stalwarts are coming closer than ever, and team manager Cedric Vasseur is vowing to battle on in Cofidis’ first season back at the WorldTour.
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“If you looked in the newspaper this morning, it’s been 28 times in the top-five in the last years, but unfortunately we were not able to catch the win,” Vasseur said Friday morning.
It’s been a case of “close but no cigar” so far for Vasseur’s team in this year’s Tour, with GC prospect Guillaume Martin one of the few able to match Primož Roglič’s winning kick atop Orcières-Merlette Wednesday, finishing third on the stage.
Stage 6 Thursday was Jesús Herrada’s turn to have a near miss, hanging tough for second on the stage behind an unstoppable ride from Alexey Lutsenko.
“Again yesterday, we tried with Herrada, and we know that if you want to win a stage in the Tour you need to have a very great performance,” Vasseur said. “Lutsenko was the strongest in that breakaway, so we have no regret.”
Cofidis went into this year’s Tour pinning its hopes on both Martin for the GC and star sprinter Elia Viviani for the fast finishes. The Italian has come up short so far, with a sixth-place on stage 1 — his best result yet.
“Elia started with 70 or 80 percent of his maximum level,” Vasseur explained. “Now he is suffering some pain in his right foot. We tried again when Wout van Aert won [on stage 5] and he was not feeling good.”
Viviani won’t be afforded many chances to contest a sprint in this year’s exceptionally hilly route, but Friday’s stage into Lavaur likely to be one of them, and Cofidis isn’t going to waste an opportunity.
“This is not to the Tour for the sprinters – definitely this year is really difficult,” Vasseur said. “Today I think it’s an 80 percent stage for the sprinters but we saw that the bunch starts to be tired – it’s a COVID year, we don’t know how it’s going to go in the second and third week, everybody’s scared. Anyway, we will work for the sprint today.”
After the flat finish into Lavaur on Friday, the race returns to the mountains, and Vasseur’s team will turn its attention back to Martin, currently sitting in fourth overall, just nine seconds back on yellow jersey Adam Yates.
“Guillaume is in very good condition, he has never been so well placed on the Tour de France,” the veteran manager said Thursday. “He knows he has a date with history, he wants to leave his mark on the Tour de France. We have total confidence in his legs.”
Cofidis has its options, now it’s just a case of making them count after 12 long years of stage-winning drought.
“The Cofidis team this year in the Tour is the strongest of the last 15 years,” Vasseur said Friday morning before adding confidently, “it will come before the Champs-Élysées.”