Lavenu philosophical on Pro Tour

Ag2r boss Vincent Lavenu believes his team will get to race their main objectives next season despit

Ag2r boss Vincent Lavenu believes his team will get to race their main objectives next season despit
PICTURE BY TIM DE WAELE After an initial blaze of indignation when his team was not selected for the Pro Tour last week, Ag2r team manager Vincent Lavenu is more philosophical about recent events judging by comments he has made to L'Equipe. Lavenu, who has run a pro team for 13 seasons and has worked with current sponsor Ag2r since 2000, admitted that his team's brand is probably the fifth biggest in France in terms of budget and public awareness behind Crdit Agricole, Cofidis, and Bouygues Tlcom. However, Lavenu is adamant that his team is bigger and more secure than some of the other teams, and he mentions Italian ones in particular, that have been selected for the Pro Tour, and with that selection get guaranteed entry to the sport's major events for the next four years. But Lavenu and his riders, which include sprinter Jean-Patrick Nazon, winner of a Tour de France stage in the past two seasons, hope that they can still be present at all of their main objectives during the season, notably Paris-Nice, the Tour and the Dauphin Libr. The organisers of these races are likely to have a couple of invites available and as the best French non-Pro Tour team Ag2r should benefit. Lavenu admits this scenario would keep his sponsors happy for now, but may lead to difficulties in the longer term. "If we have the chance to ride these events then I think our partners will stay with us because the exposure they will get gives them a return on their investment. But the key is whether the Pro Tour will remain a closed circuit (for the next four years). The more closed it is, the less chances will be for investment." Lavenu's understanding with Ag2r shows this effect. The sponsor was prepared to back him until 2007 at least if they got into the Pro Tour, but without selection there are no guarantees that Ag2r's backing will continue beyond 2005. Lavenu's riders can see the dilemma. New signing Cyril Dessel, who has been brought in from Phonak, told L'Equipe: "I can't say that I have got regrets, but even so all this has been a disappointment. That said, the races that interest me are Paris-Nice, the Dauphin and the Tour, and I think we should be at them next season. What worries me, though, is what happens after if the system remains closed for four years."
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