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Yvon Madiot doesn’t go sugarcoating things.
Groupama-FDJ‘s sport director unleashed a brutally honest of his team’s performance in a season short of marquee wins and Tour de France success.
“I would say 6/10, just above average,” Madiot said when asked how he would assess Groupama-FDJ’s year.
“Why? I could have said 5/10 actually, but I added one point because we still won a lot of races. However, I cannot go beyond that because we did not win on the grand tours. The Tour de France was average, and although we showed good things as well, we wanted to get at least a stage win and we didn’t succeed.
“I don’t think we deserve more than 6/10.”
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The long-running French squad saw 22 victories in 2021, a whole lot more than some top-flight teams. But just two WorldTour wins and a series of near-misses at the Tour made it a year to forget, both literally and metaphorically.
“Something is missing: the victory or the result we remember. Whether it be on the Tour, on the classics … Maybe all we lack is THE victory,” Madiot said in a release on his team’s website. “A stage win on the Tour and we might have thought about everything a bit differently. We feel there is unfinished business, despite everything else we have done.
“For me, it’s crystal-clear: the season isn’t really successful. There are obvious failures.”
Team talisman Thibaut Pinot missed much of the summer due to ongoing back issues, and the team was shorn of its centerpiece.
Rising Frenchman David Gaudu stepped into Pinot’s climbing shoes at the Tour and hilly classics, while Stefan Küng and Arnaud Démare hunted TT and sprint success throughout the season.
Démare ran riot through some early season second-tier races and Küng scored big in national colors at the European time trial championships this fall.
Although Gaudu scored a stage win at Itzulia Basque Country and hit the podium at Liège-Bastogne-Liège, he didn’t live up to the massing home expectation at the Tour, missing a potentially season-saving top-10.
The trio’s efforts were only good enough for a six from their sport director.
Madiot was able to muster some enthusiasm for 25-year-old Gaudu’s continued progression however.
“There is the fact that David is getting to the level we expected … It is something important because we know that we can count on him for the greatest races, while he is slowly coming into his best years,” Madiot said. “He had real consistency and gave us visibility all year round.”
Madiot also pointed to a bolstered roster for 2022 as a source of brightness. Pinot is on the mend while new signings Michael Storer and Quentin Pacher add more options.
Will the return of beleaguered “French great hope” Pinot make all the difference in 2022?
Only if the rest of the squad raises its game to suit.
“With Thibaut’s long absence, we were not always able to line up the teams we wanted. It was also a real problem, although we can’t make it our only issue. The other riders must also be able to step up in this context,” Madiot said.
“We missed Thibaut, sure, but we also realized that we didn’t have so many riders capable of winning at a very high level either … When our leaders had issues, it was difficult to perform.”
Madiot will be looking for a 7/10 or more in 2022. His riders will likely be served a similarly severe report card if not.