Over the 25 years or so of being a cycling fan I have had many favourite riders who I have willed on during many different races. I have shouted with excitement when they’ve won and felt their pain in defeat. I have never been an avid follower of any cycling teams though. I liked ONCE and T-Mobile back in the day because they had a few of my types of riders but I have never been like the avid Belgium fans of either Quick-Step or Lotto or the Team Sky diehards.
In 2014 the team gained its first entry to a Grand Tour after getting a Wild Card for that years Vuelta. They put in a solid performance with all their riders finishing and Sergio Pardilla their top rider in 17th place to show they belonged in the biggest races on the calendar. At the end of the season their new General Manager Brian Smith announced some big name signings for 2015 such as Edvald Boasson Hagen and Matt Goss and that along with their showing in the Vuelta convinced ASO to give them a wildcard berth for the 2015 Tour de France.
Brian Smith introduced another aspect to the team for 2015 with made them more supportable for me, the distinctive black and white jerseys. I had hoped that fellow Paisley Buddie had got inspiration for the design from our local football team St Mirren but he admitted in an interview that he was thinking more along the lines of Juventus.
One of the best things about watching the Tour is witnessing the pleasure it gives to everyone involved in the race. Whether it’s the excitement of the massive crowds on mountain stages, the joyous celebrations of a rider winning a stage or comfort that @nyvelocity gets from the Tour de France inspired tractor art by French farmers. The role the Director Sportifs who manage the riders have can be a stressful one so it isn’t surprising that they can lose control of their emotions from time to time too.
Marc Madiot the ex-cyclist and twice Paris-Roubaix winner had been manager of La Française des Jeux since its inception in 1997. The Tour de France would always be their main focal point of the year but going into 2012 they had only 7 stage wins in 15 editions. Stage wins would be all they could hope for too. An overall win was never possible if you considered the strength of their riders and they had to watch from the sidelines as the other French teams won the King of The Mountains jersey at various times over the years.They were very much the ‘petit poisson’, but Madiot knew things were about to change.
French cycling in general had been in the doldrums for years but things were starting to look up as many exciting young riders with genuine talent were beginning to emerge. FDJ had one of those talents and his name was Thibault Pinot. Only 22 years of age and although he still had much to learn he had already shown he had exeptional climbing ability by wining the climbers jersey at the 2010 Tour de Romandie. It was only a matter of time before he showed his worth on the biggest stage.
The moment he chose was a medium mountain stage ending in Porrentruy, Switzerland. With 6 categorised climbs already completed he had been part of a large breakaway chasing down two lone leaders. Nearing the top of the final climb of the day, the category 1 Col de la Croix he had escaped from the break and caught the final man up the road Freddie Kessiakoff. Aftet steaming past him and peaking the climb he only had 17km of descent then flat road between him and the finish. On the descent the liked of Froome, Wiggins, Evans and Nibali got their act together and briefly looked like they’d catch up with Pinot but the closer the finishing line was to him the more likely that he would complete a famous victory. Marc Madiot wasn’t taking any chances though. In the team car behind his rider he started shouting encouragement to the young climber through the radio. The shouting soon became screaming then screeching and before long he was shrieking out the window, banging on the car door as with 1km to go the victory was certain.
It was a great moment and brought a smile to everyones mouths. It showed exactly what the race means to people. Perhaps the only person who didn’t appreciate the rabid and deafening nature of Madiots way of dealing with staff morale and probably learned to turn off his team radio before trying moves like that in the future.