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"And if I had a dream, it would be that Kevin Reza, Natnael Berhane or Yohann Gene will win a big race to fight the small racism that sometimes exists in cycling. In my heart, it would be a great pleasure if they go out looking for a v...

Photo: Tour of Turkey/Hakan Seker

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09.11.2013 @ 16:50 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

After a 2013 season that allowed the team to take more wins than ever before, Team Europcar is planning 2014, hoping to be granted a ProTeam license. In addition to the usual objectives of wins and success in the biggest races, manager Jean-Rene Bernadeau hopes that one of his coloured riders will take a major win to fight the racism that he thinks sometimes rules in cycling.

 

After two highly successful seasons that saw the team shine in the Tour de France, Team Europcar had a 2013 season of mixed emotions. On one hand the team won 26 races with 12 different riders - more than ever before - and saw the breakthrough of sprinting talent Bryan Coquard, on the other hand the team failed to shine in the Tour de France.

 

Asked by the team's website to assess the season, manager Jean-Rene Bernaudeau had a positive view, hoping that the results will allow the team to reenter the WorldTour in 2014.

 

"Yes, this [the many wins] is a very positive aspect that we can learn from this season," he said. "Despite not being a ProTeam, we were invited to a lot of races and finished 18th in the world. This gives us hope that we will be granted a ProTeam license in a few days."

 

Despite the success, the Tour de France remains a major disappointment. In 2011, Thomas Voeckler wore the yellow jersey for several days and finished 4th overall while Pierre Rolland won the stage to Alpe d'Huez and the white jersey for best young rider. In 2012, both Voeckler and Rolland won stages while the former took the mountains jersey and the latter finished in the top 10 overall.

 

In 2013, the team left the race empty-handed after a poor showing by Voeckler. Rolland rode an aggressive race but never reached the same heights as he had done in the past two years.

 

"The bar was very high because we had two unimaginable years with huge success in 2011 and 2012," Bernaudeau said. "Three years in a row we have won a distinct jersey and taken stage wins and we have had the yellow jersey twice.  We knew it would be tough. And at the Tour de France, there was no success. Two big teams [Sky and Saxo-Tinkoff] locked the race and most escapes were caught. We had no success in the role of attackers or with Pierre Rolland who tried to win the mountains jersey during the entire race. But I don't judge my guys. If Pierre had won the polka-dot jersey in Paris, the Tour de France would have been wonderful. You cannot judged the season just on the Tour de France."

 

The big revelation on the Europcar team was sprinter Bryan Coquard who won 6 races in his first professional year. Already an Olympic silver medallist on the track, the 21-year-old showed that he is a fabulous road rider right from the beginning.

 

"He is charismatic and versatile," Bernadeau said. "He is a great track rider and very good on the toad. He is of course one of the revelations as he is the youngest French sprinter."

 

In addition to the Tour de France, Bernaudeau has one major regret. In the final big classic of the season, Il Lombardia, Thomas Voeckler made a brave solo attack before being caught on the final climb of the day, less than 15km from the finish.

 

" If I have a regret, it would be the Tour of Lombardy , where Thomas Voeckler deserved to finish on a high note," he said. "It would have been nice if he had been accompanied by another rider. The final script was written a little early, but Thomas tried to change the scenario and I think other riders could benefit from an open race as Thomas likes to do them. All alone, he was had to make a gigantic feat but he almost killed himself. For what he brings to the team - he is present from February to Lombardy - and for what he means to the younger riders, I wish he had more luck."

 

Asked to point to the highlight, he points to a win from one of the team's younger riders. Eritrean Natnael Berhane took a huge win on the queen stage of the Tour of Turkey and went on to win the race overall (after the disqualification of Mustafa Sayar for doping).

 

"My most emotional moment this year was thanks to Natnael Berhane in the Tour of Turkey," he said. "When I saw the green jersey in the final of this difficult stage, it warmed by heart. It was a gamble, a cheeky bet to invest in the emerging continent but it was a real pleasure and a real highlight."

 

Berhane's win also plays a role when Bernaudeau is asked to formulate his objectives for the coming season.

 

"And if I had a dream, it would be that Kevin Reza, Natnael Berhane or Yohann Gene will win a big race to fight the small racism that sometimes exists in cycling. In my heart, it would be a great pleasure if they go out looking for a victory. We are the only team with coloured riders and it touches me deeply because the fight against racism means a lot to me."

 

Europcar will know whether they have been granted a ProTeam license on November 25, with the final deadline for registration being December 10.

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