Please visit the Ag2r Prevoyance
This small French team has once more obtained – deservedly, in my opinion – a Wild Card after a host of superb early-season victories, including many victories by the evergreen Laurent Brochard such as the Criterium International and some ultra-consistent performances from Estonian sprint king Jaan Kirsipuu. Indeed, it is rather ironic how Jean-Marie Leblanc has ‘patriotically’ awarded them this Tour placing yet their front men are likely to be an Estonian sprinter and a Russian and Basque climber! But all the team can they do well in this centenary Tour, following an attacking yet ultimately-unsuccessful (in stages) showing in 2002. Watch out – the Ag2r boys are about and hungry for publicity and even wins…
Born: 17th November 1979, Spain
Height: 1m 85cm
Since the end of the Tour Down Under (which he won narrowly) and January, we have seen very little of this promising 23 year old Spaniard. Nonetheless, in that high-profile race alone he showed that he has the determination and strength to succeed at the highest level. Mikel looks to be in ‘good nick’ too, after an interesting 14th overall in the Dauphine Libere. Astarloza is a good climber, but I expect he’ll be brought along to gain experience and get the team some publicity, either on the flat or in the mountains. We could see him doing well in the future, however.
Born: 26th February 1975, Russia
Height: 1m 64cm
As the top climber in the team, Botcharov has as a responsibility of doing well in the mountain stages. Nicknamed ‘Coppi’ by team mates due to his similar pedalling style, he got in the 2002 Tour ‘Ventoux’ break and finished a superb second behind Virenque. This man is one of the best climbers around, and if he doesn’t go for high placing on stages, the Mountains Jersey could be a delightful throwback. Having secured 5th overall in the Route du Sud (the final Tour warm-up race) recently – where he lost most of his time in the 34km TT, he is in a rich vein of form. This centenary Tour could be the world arena to gain his first pro victory.
Born: 26th March 1968
The often-bandana-clad ‘Lolo’ is fast becoming an old favourite of the French. He has had an incredible first half of the season, winning everywhere as his form never seems to wane! He’s won four times so far, including an impressive stage and overall of the prestigious Criterium International and the French semi-classic Paris-Camembert. The flamboyant Brochard is still as attacking as ever – an attribute which suits him perfectly on this team – and I think he could win a stage, through a last-gasp, last-hundred-metres attack or in a more concentrated effort. Ag2r will nonetheless be urging him to get them as much publicity as possible – and if that means to wear a jersey early on or even wear a stage, so be it!
Born: 14th April 1973, Spain
Height: 1m 73cm
Warning Warning! Basque in great form – Alert! Inigo Chaurreau is easily the Ag2r Prevoyance man in the best form approaching this Tour. Although the 30 year old has taken his time to emerge, he obtained his first pro win last weekend with a sensational Spanish National TT Championships victory over 40km. Prior to that, he had an excellent Dauphine Libere, ending it 6th overall after several consistent, mountain performances. With his climbing prowess combined, Chaurreau could do superbly in the Tour – a top 15 overall is not out of reach, coupled with a high stage placing. And he’s not new to the Tour, having come 12th in 2001 with Euskatel. It looks likely Chaurreau will be Ag2r’s highest GC finisher, and he could really turn a few heads whilst he’s at it.
Born: 4th November 1978, France
Height: 1m 93cm
This 24 year old from Saint Martin d’Heres is another good prospect for French cycling as well as one of the tallest men in French cycling - though, for the former point, how he develops depends on how he is treated and raised here. A good friend of Jacky Durand, he got his first and only pro win towards the end of 2002 in Stage 2 of Paris-Correze: typically, on the attack. Clearly, he’s in good form and quite versatile – finishing in the top 10 of the French TT Championship AND in the top 5 of the road race the next day! Flickinger is also a good sprinter from small groups, so if he can get in a break that stays away, an impressive win could be his. However, his nerves may let him down, as most Ag2r Prevoyance riders have never won a Tour stage. It might happen that Flickinger and his friend Jacky ‘Dudu’ attack on the first stage and snag some jerseys, and so he can get some prime-time publicity for the team.
Born: 17th July 1969, Estonia
Height: 1m 79cm
You think ‘Old Man Jaan’ is winding down after spending pretty much his whole career with Ag2r (give-or-take a few sponsorship changes)? Think he’s getting new steel bars…for his zimmer frame? Wrong – he’s been as lively as ever so far this year with an amazing 9 wins – the most recent being the Estonian national title. Jaan also became one of the elite peloton members to win 100 races when he was victorious in the Clasico Haribo. 33 year old Kirsipuu, who will celebrate his birthday on July 17 (Stage 11 of the Tour – a stage with a tough Category 3 about halfway through, but one that could still give him a lovely present), has been hardened through 13 years of racing with the best and (although there are definitely faster and technically better sprinters) if he keeps battling away, a stage win should come his way.
Born: 22nd February 1973, France
Height: 1m 81cm
In recent years, Oriol has had to take his chances with victories, though he’s been a consistent, hard-working member of the Ag2r squad for some time. Oriol is a good climber, but I feel – unless proves he can do well in the mountains – he will be used as a domestique if Ag2r Prevoyance lead (or are close to leading) any competition. Nonetheless, I think there will be one day where he will show his power.
Born: 23rd April 1979, France
Height: 1m 84cm
Portal is another of the ‘youth brigade’ and following a year learning the professional ropes in 2002, this will be his first Tour. And the 24 year old is determined to make a lasting impact. In the Dauphine, he got in the Stage 5 breakaway but could only find 5th in the sextet sprint. Although his form is questionable, Portal will be gaining valuable experience every day of the Tour, and he will no doubt attack every so often. It is hoped he can development into a classy climber in the coming years.
Born: 22nd March 1975, France
Height: 1m 70cm
Normally used as a helper, Turpin obtained his first pro victory barely a week ago in the second Route du Sud stage, thus proving he’s on top of his form. Ever the attacker, it looks likely he’ll be replacing Stephane Berges as the team’s ‘never-say-never’ constant attacker who gets the most publicity. Opportunities to get in a break are likely, but he’s not the best of climbers nor of sprinters. Still, Turpin is (clearly) in top form and he could get in some handy breakaways on flatter stages.
Thanks to http://www.ag2r-cyclisme.com/ (the official and wonderful Ag2r Prevoyance website) to the photos and pieces of info