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by Dane Cash
June 5, 2020
Photography by Kristof Ramon
While teams across the pro peloton are facing financial uncertainty right now, things seem to be going a bit better over at Groupama-FDJ.
In one fell swoop, the French WorldTour squad has secured perhaps its four most recognizable riders, announcing on Thursday that Thibaut Pinot, Arnaud Démare, Stefan Küng, and David Gaudu had all signed extensions to keep them with the team through 2023.
In a press release, Groupama explained that it made the move with “the renewed confidence of its two title sponsors,” with team manager Marc Madiot saying that Groupama and FDJ have both agreed to stick with the team for at least four more years. That would help explain how the team has decided secure one of the peloton’s top climbers, a Milan-San Remo winner, one of the biggest engines in the bunch, and a promising youngster all at once.
Pinot ranks as the most notable re-signee, coming off of a season in which he seemed like a bona fide Tour de France contender, even topping bookmakers’ odds to win the race inside the final week, before abandoning in heartbreak with an injury.
The 30-year-old, who finished on the podium at the 2014 Tour and also counts a Lombardia victory on his career palmares, remains among the top Tour favorites outside of Team Ineos. His climbing legs and dramatically-improved time trial skills would have likely drawn plenty of interest on the open market, but he will ride on with the only pro team he has ever called home in what marks a coup for the many French fans to whom he gave a rare glimmer of Tour GC hope in 2019.
Pinot said in a press release that he is committed to pursuing his yellow jersey dreams after signing the extension.
“Leaving, when I arrive in my best years, would have left me with a taste of unfinished business,” Pinot said. “I haven’t finished writing my story with this team. I’m firmly convinced that we’re still going to build great things and win the best races. The Tour de France is obviously still the ultimate goal for which I want to devote myself 100 percent.”
Démare pointed to the security offered by the team – which is even more of a commodity than ever at the moment – was a major factor in his decision to renew. Like Pinot, Démare has been a member of the FDJ organization for the entirety of his pro career, during which he has won a Monument and stages at both the Tour and the Giro d’Italia.
“I need serenity and confidence to be able to record performances at the highest level,” he said. “And the Groupama-FDJ Team is the only formation which can provide me with such conditions.”
In renewing its quartet of “emblematic riders,” Groupama said that it “has drawn up an extremely ambitious roadmap for the coming years,” which includes the objective of winning a Grand Tour. While that certainly won’t be easy to pull off, the team can at least say it has taken a necessary step towards its lofty goals with Thursday’s extension news.