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SAINT-HILAIRE-DE-BRETHMAS, France (VN) – A race cancelation and a positive COVID test have so far prevented Peter Sagan from making his race debut for Team TotalEnergies, but the arrival of the three-time world champion and seven-time Tour de France green jersey along with three other experienced riders and, crucially, bike manufacturer Specialized has already provided the French team with a significant boost.
For a start, Sagan’s presence all but guarantees that TotalEnergies, who are at ProTeam level, will receive wild card invitations to its pick of the races on the WorldTour calendar. What’s more, having the Slovak in their ranks not only provides the French squad with a totemic leader, but in one transfer swoop also provides them the potential to compete for the sport’s biggest titles.
This is quite a shift for a team that has only won nine races over the last two seasons and none at WorldTour level since the 2020 edition of Paris-Nice.
“His arrival has definitely strengthened the team and it’s nice to have him here. It’s a good boost for everyone on this team because of his experience, ability and the riders that have come with him,” Edvald Boasson Hagen tells VeloNews at the Étoile de Bessèges.
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The Norwegian, himself a Tour de France stage winner and perennial contender in the classics, believes that racing with Sagan will give other TotalEnergies riders opportunities that wouldn’t have presented themselves before. He points to the talent that the French team already boasts to back this up.
“We’ve had a good start to this race and it’s good to see the whole team working well together,” says the experienced Norwegian. Going into Saturday’s “queen” stage to Mont Bouquet, he was one of three TotalEnergies riders placed in the top six on GC, the very promising Mathieu Burgaudeau the highest-ranked in third place, just 15 seconds back on race leader Benjamin Thomas.
“I’m pretty satisfied with my shape and how the race has gone so far for me. I’ve had some decent performances and I hope that I can build on these to start getting podium finishes when we get to the bigger races just ahead,” says Boasson Hagen, who’s in fifth place, with teammate Pierre Latour sixth.
British rider Chris Lawless, who had a torrid 2021 season due to a persistent knee problem following a crash at Le Samyn in March followed by a broken wrist in August, believes that Sagan’s arrival hasn’t changed things too much at TotalEnergies, but adds that he’s a great fit given the team’s overriding ethos.
“The attitude of the team is still the same. It’s still about having fun and hopefully by having fun performances will come,” says the former Team Sky rider and winner of the Tour of Yorkshire in 2019.
“I think Peter’s got that same attitude. He’s a bike racer at the end of the day. He’s not someone who goes out and just stares at his power meter, he wants to race his bike and that’s always been the ethos of the team. Jean-René says the most important thing is that we’ve all got a smile on our faces,” says Lawless, referring to long-time team manager Jean-René Bernaudeau.
Like a number of others on the French team, Lawless, who’s only just turned 26 and was twice a podium finisher at the prestigious GP Scheldeprijs, appears to have considerable untapped potential.
“I thrive on racing. I’m the first to admit that I’m not the best guy in the world at training, but I have got better, especially this last year. I’ve consistently done the workload I needed to in training and that’s put me in good stead for this year,” he explains. “It’s all about consistency, firstly in training, then it comes in racing.”
Adding Sagan and his cohort to these talents should serve Total Energies well, and perhaps even lead to them ending their stage-winning drought at the Tour de France which now spans a decade.