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91st Giro d'Italia - Team Preview: Ag2r-La Mondiale
By Bart Hazen
Date: 5/12/2008
91st Giro d'Italia - Team Preview: Ag2r-La Mondiale

91st Giro d'Italia - Team Preview: Ag2r-La Mondiale
A French team with an international pedigree of adventurers has some surprising talent to watch as they search of stage wins and animating the Giro in breaks.

Team Ag2r - La Mondiale takes the stage in Palermo. 
Photo © 2008 Fotoreporter Sirotti

The Ag2r - La Mondiale team has no real rider for the GC; well not one that ranks among the favorites; but they do have a consistent tour performer and talented climber with Tadej Valjavec. The only Italian in the team is Rinaldo Nocentini who is hungry for stage win. The sprinter of the team is Alexandre Usov. The others are riders which we will definitely see in one of the many breaks.

Ag2r an introduction:

Tadej Valjavec is 31 years old and talented rider with G.C. ambitions; the current Slovenian road champion's best result in the Giro was a 9th place overall in 2004. He was also 15th once, Tadej has a collection of  top10 finishes in overall rankings in lots of other stage races, to name a few: Deutschland Tour, Tour de Suisse and Paris-Nice. Valjavec has participated twice in the Tour; his best result was 17th in 2006. In 2002 he won the Settimana Lombarda and in 2003 and 2007 he was national road champion of Slovenia.

The other rider on Ag2r to watch is Italian Rinaldo Nocentini. Nocentini is a 30 year old Italian in his second year with Ag2r. In his Ag2r period he's won a stage in the Tour of Mediterranean, the GP Miguel Indurain (all 2007) and in 2008 the Giro di Lugano. But, his most important wins came in 2006 with the Coppa Placci, Giro del Veneto and the Giro dell’ Appeninno.

G.P. Lugano 2008: Vittoria Nocentini!!        Photo © 2008 Fotoreporter Sirotti

Nocentini can climb well in the mountains and is among the "fast wheels" in the peloton. In 2008 he was also 4th in the our of Mediterranean, 2nd in the Haut Var, 2nd overall in Paris-Nice (only 3 seconds behind winner Davide Rebellin), 7th in Milano-SanRemo and a solo victory in GP Lugano in March, showing improving form and consistent results. Rinaldo could surprise if his recent results are any indication of his form, he will want to add a Giro stage to his growing palmares.

Rinaldo Nocentini at the Giro team presentation.   Photo © 2008 Fotoreporter Sirotti

The sprinter of the team is Belorussian Alexandre Usov. The 30 year old joined Ag2r in 2005 and turned pro with Phonak in 2000. Usov won stage 7 at the tour de Langkawi earlier this year coming from behind and weaving past a the mayhem of a crash in the final 50 meters. (Photo sequence of the sprint follow TdL link)

Hondo continues to slide on his right shoulder as Alexander Usov (AG2R La Mondiale) survives the crash riddled sprint passing Maleki on the right to take the stage victory with Takahashi to the left in for third place. Photo © 2008 Action Images

The team will be completed by the adventurers Philip Deignan, Rene Mandri, Laurent Mangel, Nicolas Rousseau, Blaise Sonnery and Yuriy Krivtsov.

Team Time Trial - Ag2r Mondiale finished in 17th place 1:05 off the pace with all nine of its riders with Noncentini leading the team across the line in 117th place. Both Tadej Valjavec and Rinaldo have moved up the ranks as of today's stage 3, to 55th and 88th in that order.  Photo © 2008 Fotoreporter Sirotti

Philip Deignan, 24 years old Irish rider turned pro with Ag2r in 2005. 2005 was immediately his best season with his victory in the Tour du Doubs, 7th place in the Region Wallonne and 8th in Paris-Correze. Last year he made his GT debut in the Vuelta and finished as 71st.

Rene Mandri also 24 years old, turned pro in 2006. Estonian, Mandri can climb well in the hills and isn’t slow either. In 2007 he also made his debut in a Grand Tour by finishing 24th in the Vuelta a’Espana; which is pretty good performance in a debut outing.

French rider Laurent Mangel (26 years old) is a real adventurer as he likes to go in breaks. Like Deignan, he also turned pro in 2005. In 2006 he gained his first pro win in the 6th stage in Langkawi. He also was 6th in the Franco Belge. Last year he made his GT debut in the Giro and finished 112th.

Nicolas Rousseau (25 years old) and Blaise Sonnery (23 years old) turned pro with Ag2r in 2007. Rousseau is comes from a track background, and has a good sprint. Sonnery is more a climber; regarding his results in the U23 ranks, he had a stage win on the L’Isard in his final U23 season. The duo will make their debut at the Giro in a Grand Tour.

The final rider to introduce is Yuriy Krivtsov. The Ukrainian is 29 years old and has a good TT and likes to be in breakaways too. In his pro career he's won three times, a stage in Romandie, a stage in de Sarthe and a stage in the Tour de L’Avenir. He has ridden in all three the Grand Tours and finished them all.

The full team’s roster of Ag2r for the Giro is:
• Tadej Valjavec
• Philip Deignan
• Rene Mandri
• Laurent Mangel
• Rinaldo Nocentini
• Nicolas Rousseau
• Blaise Sonnery
• Alexandre Usov
• Yuriy Krivtsov

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