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Who?

Manager: Cédric Vasseur

Squad size: 31

Average age: 28.2

Cofidis is among the longest running teams and sponsors in the current peloton, having started out life back in 1996, famously briefly signing Lance Armstrong before the American was diagnosed with cancer.

In those early years, the likes of Frank Vandenbroucke, Philippe Gaumont and Francesco Casagrande scored wins in Classics like Liège-Bastogne-Liège, Gent-Wevelgem, and Clásica San Sebastián while Bobby Julich finished on the podium of the 1998 Tour de France. David Millar also rode for Cofidis but a French doping investigation exposed the problems in the team and Millar served a two-year ban after confessing to doping. 

Nowadays, the team continues to search for their first top-level stage race or Classic win since their early success and alternately fuelled beginnings. In recent years, success has come more often at French Cup level races, with three Grand Tour stage wins and a climbers jersey coming in the past four seasons. The last of their ten Tour de France stage wins came all the way back in 2008.

Former rider Cédric Vasseur is in charge of the team for 2022 having taken over as manager in late 2017, following in the footsteps of Yvon Sanquer, Eric Boyer, Alain Bondue, and Cyrille Guimard.

After a very lean year in 2020 which saw only two victories, there was an upturn in 2021 as the squad grabbed 12 wins, including Victor Lafay’s breakaway success at the Giro d’Italia.

The team has one of the smaller budgets in the WorldTour, and has a commensurate squad, far from the riches of mega-squads like Ineos Grenadiers, Jumbo-Visma and UAE Team Emirates. Indeed, nine of their wins are moving on to those teams for 2022 as Elia Viviani and Christophe Laporte depart.

Understandably, there has been a major rebuild as two of the team’s biggest riders leave, with an additional eight riders heading out the door as 13 join. Nathan Haas (to gravel), Fabio Sabatini (retiring), and Natnael Berhane are among the other notable departures.

Multiple WorldTour stage race winner (and Giro-Tour-Vuelta stage winner) Ion Izagirre heads up the incoming list along with French sprinter Bryan Coquard. Italian fastman Davide Cimolai also joins, along with compatriot Davide Villella and time trialists Max Walscheid and Benjamin Thomas.

How did they fare in 2021?

Wins: 12

World ranking: 15th

Christophe Laporte, Guillaume Martin, and Elia Viviani were the team’s top performers of 2021 going by the UCI’s rider rankings, with the trio making up 4,070 of Cofidis’ 5,481-point haul.

All-rounder Laporte took four wins – the Circuit de Wallonie, GP de Wallonie, and stages at the Etoile de Bessèges and Tour du Limousin – while also taking second places at Dwars door Vlaanderen, stage 19 of the Tour de France, at two stages of Paris-Nice, and finishing sixth at Paris-Roubaix.

The Frenchman heads to Jumbo-Visma after spending his entire career to date with Cofidis, and team boss Vasseur hopes that new signing Coquard can replace him – a sizeable task given the two riders’ fortunes in recent seasons.

Meanwhile, Ineos-bound Viviani bounced back from a winless 2020 with seven victories, including a brace of stages at Adriatica Ionica Race (riding for Italy) and Tour Poitou-Charentes as well as the ProSeries one-day race, the GP Fourmies. 

The Italian didn’t perform as expected at Cofidis, though even still it looks as though Cofidis have downgraded in the sprinting department for 2022.

Guillaume Martin, who won’t be leaving the team but now enters the final year of his three-year contract, popped up with top 10s at both the Tour de France and Vuelta a España, finishing eighth at the latter and ninth at the former – his best results of his Grand Tour career so far. In 2021 he also took a win at the Classic Alpes-Maritimes and finished sixth at Paris-Nice. All in all, a very good year for him.

The relatively unknown Victor Lafay took the team’s biggest win of the season, grabbing that famous breakaway win on stage 8 into Guardia Sanframondi. That result came weeks after taking fourth overall and the youth classification at the Volta Valenciana, while in August he finished third at the Arctic Race of Norway, also winning the mountain classification. He is one to watch this season.

Elsewhere, Jesùs Herrada scored the team’s only other win of the season, taking victory at May’s Trofeo Serra de Tramuntana. The Spaniard also finished second at the Route d’Occitanie, a stage of the Vuelta, and was also narrowly outsprinted for the Spanish road title.

Other notable results around the team included rides from Simone Consonni (second on stage 18 of the Giro), Piet Allegaert (second at Tro-Bro Léon), Anthony Perez (KOM winner at Paris-Nice), and Pierre-Luc Périchon (second at Paris-Camembert).

Key riders

Guillaume Martin: The 28-year-old Frenchman is the team’s outright leader heading into 2022. While the climber might not be a prolific winner, having taken two in the past three seasons, he will be the team’s stage race leader throughout the year, capable of scoring strong GC results from 1.1 race to Grand Tours.

In 2021 he enjoyed his best campaign yet with top 10s at both Tour and Vuelta as well as Paris-Nice, with a Vuelta podium even looking a possibility midway through the race after gaining time in a breakaway on stage 10.

This year, he’ll look to build on that once more as he heads to the Giro and Tour, as well as racing Tirreno-Adriatico, the Volta a Catalunya, and Liège-Bastogne-Liège. A Grand Tour podium is likely out of reach for Martin, but a stage win and a top five would represent further progress and a very successful year for him.

Bryan Coquard: Out goes Viviani, a sprinter didn’t live up to expectations during his two years at Cofidis, and in comes Coquard, a sprinter who has logged one win in the past two seasons. The 29-year-old has spent the past four years at B&B Hotels and hasn’t yet matched up to a 2016 season which saw him dominate in France, picking up 13 wins across races like the Etoile de Bessèges, 4 Jours de Dunkerque, and Route de Sud.

Such results, which saw him finish top 20 in the UCI rankings on ,1719 points that season, would be more than welcome in 2022, even if they aren’t WorldTour races. The first task, though, will be to get him back to winning ways with Coquard having picked up 10 podium spots in a row since his last triumph.

Whether he’ll be able to breakthrough at WorldTour level remains to be seen. Coquard has yet to win at that level in his career – having picked up five Tour de France stage podiums – and at his age it looks like a big step forward looks unlikely.

Ion Izagirre: The Spanish time trial champion is the second of two major new signings for the new season, having joined from Astana. He already has stage wins at all three Grand Tours to his name and has stage race-winning experience at the Tour de Pologne and Itzulia Basque Country.

Last year he won a stage at that race as well as taking 10th overall in addition to finishing third at Paris-Nice, and seventh at both the Tour de Romandie and the Critérium du Dauphiné. At the Tour he took – an admittedly distant – second place on stage 8 behind Dylan Teuns.

Izagirre is 32 now but is showing no signs of slowing down and is a very good addition to the squad given his stage racing and stage hunting experience. He’s only on board for one season for now though he’s one of the underrated signings of the off-season and his WorldTour pedigree should seriously bolster the team’s 2022 result sheet and points haul as they fight for a place in the 2023 WorldTour.

Strengths

Whether you classify this as a strength or a weakness is up to you, but the team has a handful of set leaders and so the squad goals for the season should be clear even at this early point of the year.

There’s Martin and Izagirre to focus on stage hunting and GC at both stage races and Grands Tour, while Coquard will be the number one sprinter throughout the year with the Tour on his hit list.

The team have other riders throughout the squad who can grab results here and there throughout the year – see Lafay, Herrada, Cimolai, Villella and more – but the big three should lead the way and the remainder of the roster will be clear in their support of the main leaders.

Weaknesses

Besides that, it is quite a thin squad. Last year Cofidis’ top three riders picked up 75 per cent of its collective UCI points and 83 per cent of its wins. Realistically, the team will once again be reliant on a handful of riders for success in 2022.

It is, of course, not a unique feature among teams around the peloton, though it is still a weakness. Still, though, a badly timed crash, injury or loss of form for one of Martin, Izagirre or Coquard could have a large detrimental effect on the team’s season, potentially a vital one given 2022 marks the end of the current WorldTour license period.

Verdict

It’s certainly a very different-looking Cofidis team for 2022 with almost half a squad’s worth of new faces joining. But it’s hard to say if the squad is stronger for the upcoming season.

The loss of Laporte is a big one, though Izagirre is a strong addition, and an out-of-sorts Viviani is replaced by an out-of-sorts Coquard. Through the rest of the squad, the likes of Cimolai, Villella, Walscheid and Thomas look like step-ups from those departing, though not massive ones.

The safest bet for Cofidis this season is another like the last – a handful of big results and wins resulting in a ‘lower midtable’ finish in the end-of-year rankings.

SOURCE: CyclingNews   (go to source)
AUTHOR: Daniel Ostanek
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