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Photo ©: Sirotti

Road Season Preview 2004

January 27, 2004

AG2r Prévoyance

Ag2r-Prévoyance team presentation

By Chris Henry

New faces, new challenges
Photo ©: Chris Henry/Cyclingnews

With five new riders and a sponsor eager to see its team grow, Ag2r-Prévoyance presented its 19 man roster at the company's headquarters in Paris Tuesday afternoon, January 27. Team manager Vincent Lavenu, who enters his 13th year at the helm of the French team (which began as Chazal, then Casino, now Ag2r), spoke confidently of the team's mix of experience and young talent, and the two primary goals he has set for 2004.

Lavenu like all team directors (particularly French) knows the Tour de France will always be the priority of the season. Along former jersey holders and stage winners Laurent Brochard and Jaan Kirsipuu, Lavenu has at last signed the rider he has wanted for the past three years, Jean-Patrick Nazon. Long before he won the final stage of the 2003 Tour in Paris, Nazon had caught Lavenu's eye as a talent for the future. Now he will provide the team with a valuable second sprinter to compliment the talents of Kirsipuu.

To keep pace with the evolution to come within professional cycling, Lavenu understands the importance of selection for the UCI Pro Tour, which is set to debut in 2005 and create a new league structure for the top 20 international teams. Ag2r-Prévoyance finished 2003 ranked 15th in the UCI team standings, and both Lavenu and his title sponsor are keen on expanding the team and securing its place among the best. Specifically, this means the search has begun for a co-sponsor to help build on the existing budget of 4 million euros per year and bolster the team in the coming seasons.

"If another partner were to join the Ag2r-Prévoyance team, along with our friends at [bike sponsor] Décathlon, which has decided to continue its involvement, we could perhaps field a team that's even more successful even if we have complete confidence in the team put together by Vincent Lavenu," added Yvon Breton, the secretary general of the team.

Ag2r said goodbye to three riders after the 2003 season (Botcharov, Loder, Trastour) and welcomed five new members to the team, all of whom offer new capabilities to win races. Four of the five come from Jean Delatour (now RAGT Semences-MG Rover):Samuel Dumoulin, Yuriy Krivtsov, and Jean-Patrick Nazon all. Neo-pro Lloyd Mondory, multiple recipient of the Vélo d'Or award (cadet, junior and espoir), is another rider on whom Lavenu is placing great hope, and after a promising debut as a stagiaire with the team last fall, Mondory isn't likely to disappoint.

Kirsipuu, from the start
Photo ©: CN

The team's pillars of experience will be Laurent Brochard, who returns for his second season with the team, and Jaan Kirsipuu, who turned professional with Lavenu's Chazal team in 1993 and has remained faithful ever since. Kirsipuu has 109 professional victories to his name, and will be looking for his 110th next week as the French road season kicks off in the south.

"It's always good to start with a win, because that gives you confidence for the next races," Kirsipuu told Cyclingnews, all the while insisting that he does not set specific objectives. Winning races is his goal, which races he wins is of less importance. Kirsipuu and Lavenu are kindred spirits, it seems, content to work hard and take victories when they come, but focus above all on a solid team and aggressive racing, always with an eye on improvement.

Ag2r-Prévoyance 2004 roster

Images by Chris Henry/Cyclingnews