AG2R La Mondiale Season Review
Updated: Dec 29, 2019
Starting off with their spring it was a consistent run by Oliver Naesen but without that big result that's been expected for years, he's escaped the bad luck that's so often hit him and was always there, his best result came in his third place in Gent-Wevelgem, they have however in their secondary focus gotten some important wins in the Drome Classic, the Paris-Camembert and in the Circuit Cycliste Sarthe (stage race) which made up for a solid run in the spring, whilst in the Ardennes Romain Bardet and Benoit Cosnefroy were also present with some solid results but nothing to really show off.
Perhaps where the team would be expected to ride the best, despite being a very balanced squad overall that could target several kinds of races, the early part of the season was good with Romain Bardet perhaps showing his best legs of the season finishing fifth in Paris-Nice with an impressive display in the crosswinds, the Swiss races left something more to wish for with Mathias Frank headlining but not quite on his best, Bardet also raced for tenth in the Dauphiné but again there was no real showcase there, the team was doing much better in the national lower-level races which saved their season, in August there was a spark with Pierre Latour riding strong in Pologne for a sixth place and Oliver Naesen taking second in BinckBank after taking the final stage. There were however several races where the team was essentially missing from the results, specially in the early months of the season, the expectations were never very high but there definetely lacked a lot of consistency throughout the year from AG2R.
In here it was almost all about Bardet and his history with the Grand Boucle. Having Pierre Latour miss a lot of the season due to injury, he came into form very well just before the Vuelta but he faded there in the opening week and despite some strong performances he couldn't materialize them but an impressive display by neo-pro Geoffrey Bouchard taking the KOM meant a good race for the team. In the Giro it was Nans Peters who made it worth it with an impressive solo win in Antholz, and in the Tour where Bardet was targeting the GC, it early on became obvious he was lacking the legs but still, almost unnoticed he managed to net the KOM classification, with it still fifteenth in the overall, it was a small prize for what he was targeting but he took to his off-season early on and I'm personally hoping and excited to see the best Bardet back next year.
Top10's in RideLondon and Hamburg followed by another series of wins in the end of October, in Poly Normande and the Tour du Limousin both coming from Benoit Cosnefroy got them to a good start in that final block of racing, there were also Top 10 finishes in the Canadian classics with a good stint, and September/October was filled with strong results in the one-day races, no wins coming from it but several podium places, highlighs perhaps Peters' performance in Gran Piemonte and Paris-Chauny with Naesen adding more podiums, and Latour finishing ninth in Lombardy to cap off the World Tour season.
Interview with Oliver Naesen:
Echelons: What were your highs and lows of the season?
Oliver: Highs must be the spring season and the month following the Tour de France. From Paris-Nice to just before Flanders was a very cool period for me. Second high was August, the efforts of the Tour lifted my level to a peak in the BinckBank Tour where I won the last stage.
E: If you could give one advice on how to race the spring classics what would it be?
O: Preparation is key. For me those races are all about pacing. You should know where and when you need to do the effort to fight for position, and especially when you can relax a bit. For this you need to know the roads by heart.
E: Over your years in AG2R we’ve seen you become Romain Bardet’s right-hand man, how does one become such an essential piece of a team?
O: Our team was and is a climbers team. Based in Chambery, climbing is in their DNA. When the team signed me in 2017, they did so because they wanted somebody to help the climbers on the flat. That was exactly the role I was looking for. On a personal level, it just clicked from the start between me and Rom. We're friends and he's a very grateful leader.
E: What are your personal ambitions for the coming season?
O: I really want to win more. It's all about the classics for me, let's start with that.
E: Regarding that, seeing you’ve clearly got the legs to fight for Milano Sanremo, could that become as big of a goal as the cobbles?
O: It will for sure feel more special next year at the start line. Of course it's a goal, MSR is a few days before the cobbled classics so either way I'd need to be in top shape there already.
E: Could we expect something of a calendar change next season? As Romain could maybe target a different Grand Tour are you considering skipping the Tour?
O: We will discuss next year’s program on teambuilding in Vaujany in two weeks so I don't really know yet. But it would really surprise me, Giro comes too fast after the classics and during the Vuelta there are a bunch of nice one day races, but everything is possible of course.
E: Finally, you are very loved by the social media community who loves how open you are to talking with fans, would you say the sport could benefit more from that interaction from more riders or is it already ideal the way it is?
O: Very active might be a bit of an overstatement but I do enjoy interaction with anyone and everyone, in real life or online. It could benefit, for sure, the charm of cycling is the fact that we're all very approachable. For example in training, cyclo's often get on our wheel and ride with us. You couldn't go training with Manchester City if you're a football fan.
Wins (WT): 14 (2)
Highlight: Nans Peters' win in Antholz
Best Performer: Oliver Naesen
Biggest Surprise: Benoit Cosnefroy
Negative Surprise: Silvan Dillier