Vital Concept has a new beggar.
Last year, it was the freshly signed sprinter Bryan Coquard who hoped that the Tour de France would throw his pro continental team a wildcard invite.
“If the organizers of the Tour de France give invitations without giving us the time to prove ourselves, they could perhaps be kicking themselves,” Coquard told AFP. “It would be nice if they wait a bit to see what we can do. I hope we will have time to express ourselves. I want to say to them, ‘Give us a chance!'”
The answer came in the first week of January before Vital Concept had any real chance to show what they could do in a bike race. The French pro continental squad didn’t make the cut, the wildcards going instead to Cofidis, Wanty-Groupe Gobert, Direct Energie and Fortuneo-Samsic.
This season, it’s the same story all over again, a genuine French deja vu. Only this time, it’s not Coquard hoping against hope, it’s the team’s latest big signing, Pierre Rolland.
The French climber has done ten Tours, most recently with WorldTour team EF Education First-Drapac. Like Coquard when he left the more established Direct Energie squad, Rolland is stepping down to a smaller team with less resources, track record and reputation.
Rolland can now ride for himself instead of supporting Rigoberto Uran but the downside is, he may not get into the major races like the Tour.
Thus, round two on the begging.
“We’re depending on invitations,” Rolland said. “I hope that they give us time to show the jersey and prove ourselves before the invitations are given. We hope to be there, and we’ll do everything we can to do that. We just hope that the invitations aren’t handed out on January 1.”
That’s a lot of hope expressed by Rolland. It didn’t work for Coquard but perhaps Rolland will have better luck. It won’t be easy if the Tour organization stick to that January decision date for wildcards.
If they won’t get in, well, there’s always next year. There will be a new beggar and fresh hope.