Vuelta a España - Théo Ouvrard: "Kévin Vauquelin will discover Grand Tours"
Kévin Vauquelin will be immersed for three weeks on the roads of the Vuelta a España in the role of GC leader, while Cristián Rodríguez will focus more on stage wins in the mountains, as will Hugo Hofstetter in the sprint finishes. Mathis Le Berre, like Kévin Vauquelin, will be discovering his first Grand Tour at the age of 22. Team managers Sébastien Hinault and Mickaël Leveau review the squad.
“Kévin Vauquelin will be discovering a Grand Tour,” says Sébastien Hinault, “his very first three-week event. It’s bound to be a bit of an unknown for him, as it is for us. But given his start to the season and his first three successes as a professional, we won’t be holding anything back, either for him or for ourselves. We’ll be living this Vuelta a España day by day alongside him. There are bound to be expectations for Kévin, but let’s not forget either that this Vuelta a España will be a learning experience for this young rider. That’s also why he’s starting his career in the Grand Tours in Spain. The aim is to get the best possible result with Kévin, without losing sight of the fact that he still has to learn what a three-week race is and how to manage it.”
“Cristián Rodríguez is Spanish, and his national Grand Tour is obviously close to his heart,” smiles Sébastien Hinault. The Vuelta a España is a race that’s all about the mountains, and Cristián’s qualities will be on show on several occasions. The aim will be to win a stage with Cristián, who has given us great guarantees since he joined our team. Depending on whether this ambition is achieved, why not consider raising our sights on a good overall final classification. If there are two such possibilities that present themselves to us, we won’t deprive ourselves of achieving them with Cristián”.
“Élie Gesbert will also be designated as a “stage chaser”. His mission will also be to support his leaders in the mountains, with Kévin Vauquelin and Cristián Rodríguez, to protect them and take them either into a breakaway or to achieve a good overall classification. Élie is an excellent climber, but we know that in a three-week race, and particularly in the Vuelta a España, there are plenty of opportunities to win a stage in a breakaway,” notes Sébastien Hinault.”
“Lukasz Owsian is the archetypal team-mate, the efficient behind-the-scenes worker for his leaders,” explains Sébastien Hinault. He knows exactly how to catch the wind for them. Lukasz will be protecting the riders who have been designated as such or who are protected on the approach to the climbs, putting them back at the foot of the difficulties. He knows how to ride at the front, and “he’s a windbag”, as they say, who asks no questions and knows how to put himself at the service of the team without any ulterior motives. He will be invaluable to Kévin Vauquelin and Cristián Rodríguez.”
“Michel will be taking part in his second Grand Tour of the season, after the Giro d’Italia,” says Mickaël Leveau. He will be an important asset in the mountains alongside Cristián Rodríguez and Élie Gesbert. His experience of three-week races will enable him to advise the younger members of the team, who will be discovering this type of competition.”
“Kévin has already competed in the Tour de France on a number of occasions, but the Vuelta a España will be a first for him. His experience of this type of event will be an asset to the team, and he has all the qualities needed to take on the role of road captain,” points out Mickaël Leveau. He can also provide support for Hugo Hofstetter on stages that are likely to come down to a sprint, just as he is capable of placing the climbers ideally at the foot of the passes.”
“He will be Arkéa-Samsic’s sprinter on this Vuelta a España,” says Mickaël Leveau. He can take on this role in the flat finishes, as he did in 2022 on the roads of the Tour de France, but he can also aim for stages that are a little more hilly, which can eliminate certain sprinters but give a chance to the fast men who are capable of overcoming certain difficulties”.
“He’s the youngest rider in the team, even if it’s five days difference with Kévin Vauquelin (laughs)! Mathis will be discovering a Grand Tour, the Vuelta a España, because he has the maturity to do it. We expect him to place Hugo Hofstetter in the sprint finishes, otherwise his mission will be to open his eyes wide, discover and learn at high speed on this Vuelta a España”, concludes Mickaël Leveau.
“Kévin Vauquelin is about to discover the Vuelta a España. It’s his first participation in a three-week event in his career. Kévin is young, and has already shown his qualities at the start of the season. He’s going to this competition to learn and to test himself in an event of this kind with less pressure. We want him to learn how to manage an overall classification. That’s our primary objective, after Kévin’s return from injury, which will inevitably add an extra element of uncertainty to the fact that a three-week race is all new to him. Our main objective is the overall classification, but we don’t rule out other objectives with him. Cristián Rodríguez’s mission will be to ‘play’ the stages first and foremost. He will be assisted in this quest by Élie Gesbert and Michel Ries. Élie will be a team-mate in this race, but will be able to seize any opportunities that may arise. We’ve also signed up Hugo Hofstetter, whose role will be to compete in the flat sprints, but also to be present on the hilly stages that may end in a sprint with a smaller group. We’ve also decided to launch Mathis Le Berre, who had a great season in 2023, into the ‘Grand Bain’ of the Grand Tours. He’s going to learn a lot in this race and gain a lot of experience that will serve him well in the future.”