BERRE L’ÉTANG, France (VN) – Winner of two stages and the king of the mountains titles at last year’s Vuelta a España, Michael Storer’s move to the French Groupama-FDJ squad from Team DSM has put him in line for a Tour de France debut this summer. Before that landmark, though, the 24-year-old Australian is focused on settling in with his new team and on more immediate goals.
The first of those is his first race in Groupama-FDJ’s blue, white and red colors at the Tour de la Provence this week. Storer began it with 45th place in the 7.1km prologue on the kind of pan-flat course that’s never likely to bring out the climber’s best qualities.
“It was a quick course and it required a very intense eight minutes – full focus, full power,” he said soon after completing his ride.
“I think it’s the best time I could do today for myself. It doesn’t really matter what everybody else does, I just like to analyze my own performance, and I think that was a good TT for me.”
Storer described himself as “happy” and “super motivated” in his new team, where he’s getting help learning French and has been hugely impressed by the all-around support for its riders.
“This team is as much into the details as DSM, maybe even more sometimes. It’s a very, very good set-up here,” he told VeloNews.
“There are some very traditional elements as well, but when it gets into the science, we do things so very well. They really look after the riders and try and get the best out of everyone. And that’s exactly what I was looking for.”
Storer says that some of the pressure that he might have felt in coming to a new team has been lifted by Groupama’s January announcement that he has been pre-selected for the Tour de France team, along with fellow climbers Thibaut Pinot and David Gaudu, rouleur and time trialist Stefan Küng and punchy all-rounder Valentin Madouas.
“That was definitely a relief,” he acknowledged.
“I wanted to do the Tour de France for the first time, and it shows the faith the team has in me by announcing that I’d been selected six months before it.”
The basic plan, he added, is that all three of the French team’s climbers will reach the Tour’s mountain stages in good shape and tactics will be decided from that point on.
Having progressed steadily since stepping up from Sunweb’s development team to its elite roster at the start of the 2018 season, Storer took his first wins last season, clinching the “queen” stage through the Jura massif at the Tour de l’Ain and with it the GC title, then adding two mountain victories at the Vuelta a España. They were hugely memorable moments, he confirmed.
“It’s a different feeling, knowing that maybe you are the best rider there, because on most of my race days I’m getting dropped. So it’s a pretty special feeling where you’re that one guy who bosses the situation because it doesn’t happen very often,” he said.
Storer’s path towards the Tour is a well-trodden one. It’s set to take him to Paris-Nice, the Volta a Catalunya, the Tour de Romandie and, ultimately, the Critérium du Dauphiné. For now, though, his focus is on Provence, which concludes with the type of mountain finish on the Montagne de Lure where the Australian should thrive.
“I know absolutely nothing about it really,” he admits, “apart from the fact that it’s quite steep, long, and that it’s hard, so hopefully I’ve got enough form to be active. But we’ve also got our sprinter Arnaud Démare here and backing him up for Friday’s stage will be a big goal too.”