The 2012 Europcar team was presented to the World today, with general manager Jean-René Bernadeau looking back on its most successful year to date, while looking ahead to what he hopes will be further glory. The green and black Professional Continental team, which is based in France’s western coastal Vendée region, punched high above its weight in 2011, will eleven of its riders taking a victory.
It was the Tour de France where the team really hit the headlines though, with stage victory on Alpe d’Huez and the white jersey for Pierre Rolland, and fourth place overall for Thomas Voeckler, after he’d spent ten glorious days in yellow.
“2011 is a great story,” said Bernadeau. “I am very proud of this year; people say ‘thank you’ rather than ‘well done’ to the image of the team. At the foot of Alpe d’Huez, there was virtually the entire team to defend the jersey. Thank you to our sponsors and all of our riders.
Europcar has always been a team that, like its talismanic leader Voeckler, races with its heart on its sleeve, and 2012 will be no exception to this.
“No race will be used to prepare for another,” said Bernadeau. “We respect the organizers.
“Winning is good,” he explained. “To give emotion is better. We do not want to be an actor, always controlling the race. I love my riders from the bottom of my heart.
“The Vendée loves cycling, and loves our team,” he added.
Rolland’s Alpe victory and white jersey were, for many, the beginnings of the realisation of a long-identified talent. His relatively modest results before last July allowed him a certain anonymity, from which he managed to use to his advantage, but he will not allowed the same luxury this year.
Voeckler’s performance in the Tour was more than a personal achievement, in that it raised the hopes of the host nation again. All eyes will be on the 32-year-old this July to see if he can match, or better, his 2011 achievement; as one of the highest profile French riders for many years though, this is something he is used to.
“The pressure does not bother me,” he said. “I have experience; I live with it. People identify well with what the team does. It’s fun. It gives pleasure to people.
“My goals? It’s January 26, it’s easy to talk,” he added. “We must remain humble. I have many ambitions; I won’t go to a race without playing something.”
The presentation also saw the unveiling of the team’s new jersey, made by Canadian company Louis Garneau. The black and green design is little changed from that of 2011, with any changes part of an evolution, not a revolution. The team will continue to ride Colnago frames equipped with Campagnolo wheels and components.
Team Europcar will kick off the 2012 season with the traditional French season-opener, La Grand Prix l’Ouverture La Marseillaise, in the south of France this coming Sunday.