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Groupama-FDJ will be holding onto its key players for some time.
Officials confirmed Thursday that general classification star Thibaut Pinot, sprinter Arnaud Démare, emerging talent David Gaudu, and time trial engine Stefan Küng will all be staying with the French team through 2023.
Tour de France nearly-man and Il Lombardia winner Pinot has been with the team his entire pro career, and he plans to keep it that way. The 30-year-old’s current contract was due to expire this winter, but there was never a whiff of doubt as to who he would race for in 2021.
“I know very well that there is no other team where I will be so satisfied and happy”, Pinot told Le Parisien. “It is a project that has not yet been completed. I want to finish my career here. So it was clear to renew my contract with this team. Everyone knew when I renewed my contract two years ago that I wouldn’t leave. I belong to Groupama-FDJ.”
Pinot raised his nation’s hopes and then broke their hearts in the 2019 Tour de France, racing himself into podium contention and snatching a stage win atop the iconic Col du Tourmalet before withdrawing with a sudden and unexplained knee injury. He will return to race his eighth Tour this August having warmed the legs at the Route de l’Occitanie and Critérium du Dauphiné.
After the heart-wrenching tears of his abandon in the stormy stage to Tignes last summer, Pinot’s attitude to La Grande Boucle has changed, though the ambition remains.
“I focus on the podium first and then maybe higher,” he said. “I don’t want to put pressure on myself anymore. Years ago I was afraid to talk about the Tour. Now I am no longer afraid of the Tour. It doesn’t bother me, also because I know what it is like to fail in the Tour. There have been beautiful moments and moments of suffering. I accepted that.”
Pinot made clear that he hopes to bring Tour de France success to Groupama-FDJ in his next three years with the team. And after that, he plans to stay put, acting “in a role like that of Thomas Voeckler, in a free role and as a captain through which I can transfer experience to young people.”
Groupama-FDJ’s spate of contract renewals sees the continuation of a recent French spending spree. Ag2r-La Mondiale confirmed last week that cobbles star Oliver Naesen would remain with the team through 2023, and renewed their contract with Alexis Vuillermoz for a further year Tuesday.
With Groupama-FDJ giving its name to its national lottery and insurance company backers, and Ag2r-La Mondiale likewise sponsored by an insurance provider, French outfits are reversing a trend of staff cuts and salary reductions that have rippled through peloton since the coronavirus pandemic. Both Groupama and FDJ recently confirmed their commitment to Pinot’s team through 2024, a sign of financial confidence while other sponsors are nervously eyeing budgets. With that, Pinot eyed a stable home at which to play out his career.
“We have solid support from the sponsors, and that peace is now also noticeable,” Pinot said. “I am someone who likes loyalty. I never intended to leave, especially during this break.”