Nineteen participations and as many emotion-packed years for Jean-René Bernaudeau's team, which never fails to push the right buttons in summer. It boasts the strongest regional roots of any team with its ties to the Vendée department, which last year hosted the Grand Départ for the fifth time in 25 years. Born in 2000, the team then known as Bonjour started to shine in its second participation, when it defended François Simon's yellow jersey between the Alps and the Pyrenees. The goal back then was to prove there was a place in the Tour for lesser-known French cyclists despite the American's supremacy.
After renaming his team La Boulangère in the wake of a financial rescue by local authorities, the "Gypsy of the Bocage" struck gold in 2004. Coming one week before start of the Tour, Thomas Voeckler's first French Championship was not just a quasi-miracle. It heralded a ten-day odyssey in yellow, followed by another one seven years later, this time in Europcar colours but still in the same structure, one which has been repeatedly shaken by internal tensions and an uncertain future.
Curiously enough, JR's team did not win its first stage until Pierrick Fédrigo triumphed in Gap in 2006, in the team's seventh start (this time under its Bouygues Telecom avatar). Europcar was the lucky sponsor that got the team in extremis starting in 2011. Voeckler in yellow, Rolland in white after Charteau took the polka-dots in the previous edition, then Voeckler in the polka-dot and Rolland, again in the top 10 (eighth) in 2012, an indefatigable attacker who often wore the polka-dot jersey in 2013… Voeckler retired at the end of the 2017 Tour de France. For the first time in the history of the team, a sprinter was supposed to fill the leader's boots. Bryan Coquard became sole leader in 2016, when the team still rode in the colours of Direct Énergie (the fifth title sponsor in its history). He scored two near-misses, one on the Champs-Élysées in 2015 and another in Limoges the year after that. He has since left the team after the relationship went sour, which did little good to his career. Lilian Calmejane stepped up to the plate. The ambitious rider from the Tarn department marked his debut with a win in the stage to Les Rousses and has kept the flame of Voeckler and Chavanel alive with his aggressive riding. The team also added former Tour of Flanders and Paris–Roubaix winner Niki Terpstra to its roster over the winter break.
Stage wins: 10
Secondary classification wins: 3
Yellow jerseys: 23
20: the number of days spent in yellow by Thomas Voeckler in his two stints with the jersey.
29 July 2001: François Simon finishes the Tour de France in sixth place after wearing the yellow jersey for three days thanks to a mammoth breakaway.
8 July 2004: French champion Thomas Voeckler slips into a breakaway on the road to Chartres and gets the yellow jersey for ten days.
22 July 2011: Pierre Rolland, the best young rider of the Tour, drops Alberto Contador and Olympic champion Samuel Sánchez to become the first Frenchman to triumph on the Alpe d'Huez since Bernard Hinault in 1986.
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