EUROPCAR IN THE DRIVER’S SEAT
Tour de France team Europcar will be one to watch during the 2011 Le Tour de Langkawi starting on January 23rd. This is the new name for the Bbox Bouygues Telecom team that last appeared in Malaysia in 2009 with a win at the final stage at Dataran Merdeka by Yohann Gene.
With the termination of the sponsorship contract that linked the team to the French mobile phone operator, the squad was close to folding but the rental car company came in to rescue at the last minute in the early days of October. Recently, UCI president Pat McQuaid praised the arrival of this new sponsor: “Because it’s Europcar International and not only Europcar France, it shows that French teams also have a future in the globalization of cycling.”
The team managed by Jean-René Bernaudeau wasn’t waiting for an international sponsor to embrace the globalization of cycling. This is the only long term living cycling organisation that has actually taken part in Le Tour de Langkawi when the first edition of the race was mostly contested by amateurs in 1996. Vendée U was one of the participating teams fifteen years ago, who only later became a professional team in 2000. Their first race in the highest ranks under the name of Bonjour was Le Tour de Langkawi indeed, with Damien Nazon bringing home the squad’s first success of their history as he won a bunch sprint finish in Sitiawan.
“We haven’t managed to include Le Tour de Langkawi in our race program every year due to different constraints but we believe in fate, so when we got the opportunity to come back this year, we took it with great pleasure”, Bernaudeau said. “We have refused an offer from the organiser of Tour de France to compete in the Tours of Qatar and Oman because of giving our priority to Malaysia.”
Le Tour de Langkawi will be the first appearance of Japanese star Yukiya Arashiro under the colours of Europcar. As he’s used to, the rider from Okinawa has chosen Thailand as his training ground alongside his former team-mate Shinichi Fukushima who now rides for Terengganu Pro Asia Cycling Team (TCT).
Arashiro will be lined up in Malaysia with Europcar’s new recruit from Canada, David Veilleux and his French team-mates Pierre Rolland, Damien Gaudin, Guillaume Le Floc’h and Perrig Quéméneur.
Rolland, 24, is one of France’s most promising riders. He made the top 5 of stage 10 in the Tour de France last year. A climber in the making, he’s clearly a potential winner for Le Tour de Langkawi, shall his condition be at the same level in January as it normally is in June or July.
“This is a team from the Tour de France”, said the CEO of Le Tour de Langkawi, Mohamed Salleh. “It’s a very prestigious team that gives a lot of credit to our event.”
EUROPCAR TEAM LINE-UP:
TEAM MANAGER : Dominique ARNOULD
RIDERS : Yukiya ARASHIRO (JPN), Damien GAUDIN (FRA), Guillaume LE FLOC’H (FRA), Perrig QUÉMÉNEUR (FRA), Pierre ROLLAND (FRA), David VEILLEUX (CAN)