2014 Team Previews: Europcar

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Who are the sponsor? Europcar are a hire care company working across Europe.

Nationality: French

2013 Ranking: Were not in WorldTour 2013.

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Past Stars: Pierik Fedrigo, Sylvain Chavanel, Sebastian Turgot, Anthoney Chartaeu

Selected Team Palmares:  2012 Tour de France King of the Mountains (Thomas Voeckler), Stages, Tour de France, (Thomas Voeckler x 4, 2009, 2010, 2012×2, Pierre Rolland x 2, 2011, 2012)

Brief Team History: In their current iteration, Europcar are held together by the thread of Thomas Voeckler, who has been at the team his whole career since it as Bonjour when he took yellow in 2004 for 10 days. He didn’t actually win  a stage until 2009, by which time the team had become Bouygues Telecom. They then became Europcar in 2011 and instantly got a return on their investment when Voeckler held yellow for another week, and looked briefly like he could win the Tour, before an ill-judged-in-hindsight attempt to chase Schleck and Contador on the Galibier made him lose the jersey on Alpe d’Huez and finish 4th overall. It emerged that Voeckler had single handedly saved the team when it was revealed Europcar would only commit if he was on the team.The team has had recent success at the Tour, what with Voeckler’s 4th and the following years KOM competition win for him alongside three stage wins.

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Last year: Europcar had had two great years, centered on the Tour where they’d enjoyed Voeckler’s epic ride to 4th place with time in yellow as well as Rolland’s Alpe d’Huez win and white jersey, before Tommy V won the King of the Mountains competition the next year whilst taking stage wins either side of another one from Rolland. As such, they were due an off year, and it came in 2013’s collection of near misses. Sprinter Coquard ticked off some wins over the year, whilst Damien Gaudin won them the prologue of Paris-Nice. Voeckler had a good go at the Ardenne classics, as well as the Tour of Lombardy where he engaged in a 60km (ultimately fruitless) attack, but the point of Europcar has always been the Tour, and they just didn’t rise to their previous level. Rolland had a good go at the King of the Mountains, wearing the jersey for about 12 days, but couldnt pullit off, whilst the team failed to get a podium place at the race. In the end, his choice of polka dot shorts got more column inches then his riding ability. Still, they won World Tour status again at the end of the year, so there was some security in that.

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Transfer dealings: They’ve actually lost a few quality riders, with Gaudin and Turgot moving to Ag2R and Velliuex retiring at just 27. Past KOM Charteau retires as well, and to replace them, Europcar have brought in Jimmy Engoulvert and on-off French talent Romain Sicard to bolster the World Tour line up, which will require them to ride the Giro and the Vuelta, as well as a collection of Pro Continental riders.

Who are the star riders? Still built around multi-talented Thomas Voeckler, Europcar are trying to take the pressure off him by transitioning towards climber Pierre Rolland. Bryan Coquard is there young sprinter they’ve put hopes on, but because they’ve offloaded some of their better riders, the next best are break away men like Christophe Kern and Cyril Gautier. Past u23 champion Romain Sicard joins from Euskatel, but whether he can rise to the giddy heights predicted for him seems unlikely.

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Fashion Police: Europcar’s smart green has always been a winner, even if black is encroaching on their jersey, and they’ve added an odd swirl on the belly for some reason. Still one of the better efforts though.

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What are their targets? Just like last year, the Tour de France, as always. Voeckler will be back after stage wins, whilst Rolland wants to be in the top 5, although a crack at the King of the Mountains might be a better bet. Voeckler may have a go at Liege Bastonge Liege as well after performing well there and at Lombardy the last couple of years.

What are they likely to achieve? After a year off at the Tour, Europcar should be back to their best at the Tour, but the increased opportunities from the automatic invites to all three  Grand Tours should give their young squad the opportunity to shine. Whether Rolland can perform how he wants to at the Tour is another thing all together – he was aiming for the top 5 last year, but bombed somewhat, and will thus  want to reach his 2011 form again.

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Components: Italian’s Colnago supply the frames for this team, who ride Campagnolo as well. Excellent choices.

The Big Question(s): Is Rolland already at his level or can he improve to become a French podium Contender?

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