Ahead of the 2021 cycling season, KONM is previewing every men’s WorldTour team. We’ll do two per week until all are covered. Obviously, given the Covid-related uncertainty surrounding us all, it’s hard to be definitive but for now we’re taking it as if the “normal” schedule of races will go ahead approximately as would have occurred pre-2020.
So far, some of KONM’s 2021 WorldTour previews have run to 2,500 words – but rest assured the Cofidis edition won’t come to that. The French team is likely to be on the lower end of the table when it comes to wins – and probably public interest – this year, so we’ll keep it as brief as possible.
To be fair, this is a team with a long history in the peloton so there’s real cycling heritage there, but Cofidis’ budget is not among the largest of the WorldTeams. Their roster reflects that reality, as could their results in 2021, despite potential improvement brought about by some savvy work in the transfer market.
Still, although this isn’t a squad that will be ripping up any trees there are several charismatic and popular riders to keep an eye on. It may not be a prolific assembly of talent but it’s a pretty likeable one.
Where else to start than with the philosopher-king-of-the-mountains, Guillaume Martin? The French climber is one of the few truly top-class Cofidis riders (at least, in KONM’s opinion) and won his team a lot of publicity by taking the mountains classification at the 2020 Vuelta a España. He was also good enough to podium on GC at the Critérium du Dauphiné in August and was unlucky not to win a grand tour stage last season, earning podium finishes in both the Vuelta and the Tour de France.
All things considered, 2020 was a good year for Martin as he burgeoned his grimpeur reputation. He always seemed to be there-or-thereabouts in big races, mixing it with the favourites despite an obvious lack of team-mates at key points. He’s a guy with significant ability and a palmarès to be proud of, which may lead the crueller among you to beg the question: so why is he riding for Cofidis, then?
It’s a fair question – maybe. Certainly, it’d be nice to see Martin in the jersey of AG2R or Groupama (where he was a stagiaire in 2014) but at another team he may not enjoy undisputed leadership in the way he does now. And that would be a loss for fans of the sport, especially if he ended up working in service of a team-mate. Part of Martin’s allure as a rider is the fact he hasn’t yet been part of a “big” team, instead making a name for himself at then-Pro Conti Wanty-Gobert before stepping up to the WorldTour with Cofidis.
Martin has existed in something of a vacuum within cycling; a thinker in a world of jocks, the kid in an American high school drama who gets beaten up by Wout Van Aert and Mathieu van der Poel before stealing both their girlfriends. (Someone pitch that miniseries to GCN). The appearances on French TV to sell his book Socrate à vélo only enhance the idea that Martin is a separate entity and riding for the likes of Wanty/Cofidis rather than Jumbo/Ineos seems to solidify that sui generis brand. This is a good thing: sport needs as many alternative voices as possible, which is especially true when it comes to a pursuit as homogenous as cycling.
But, hey, what about his actual prospects for racing in 2021? It seems obvious the target will be Big Race, the three-week tour of his homeland. He finished 11th on GC in 2020 and seized attention with a third-place on stage 4 to Orcières-Merlette. On that day he lost out to Primoz Roglic and Tadej Pogacar but out-kicked the rest of a truly elite climbing group including Julian Alaphilippe, Nairo Quintana, Egan Bernal, Thibaut Pinot, Miguel Angel López and Tom Dumoulin. That’s one of the most stellar collections of mountaineers imaginable so Martin’s class is there for all to see.
And yet, there’s the Cofidis factor. He gradually faded away as the days went by in the Tour and although some might infer that this is due to a lack of stamina on his part, it’s more likely that he suffered for a dearth of help from his domestiques. One look at the startlist for that race and it’s patently obvious that Cofidis just didn’t have the firepower to support him in a GC race, all the more so in light of the team’s decision to hunt stages with Elia Viviani.
Interestingly, there is now some hope for Martin with the arrival at Cofidis of several engines who could potentially be pressed into his service. Sure, Jempy Drucker and Jelle Wallays are more likely to do most of their business in the classics (more of which anon) but if the team decides to use them in the Tour they could provide valuable protection for Martin on flatter or punchier days. Simon Geschke, Rubén Fernández and Rémy Rochas all have the ability to help him out on the hillier stages if selected for the race and not allocated elsewhere.
It remains to be seen if any of this newly signed quintet will be apportioned to Martin but if they are he will surely benefit from sturdier service than in previous years. He’ll be hoping to break the top 10 in a grand tour GC and KONM wouldn’t bet against it in 2021. Can he be the man to finally win a Tour stage for Cofidis for the first time since 2008?
UPDATE: In the minutes before publication of this article, it emerged that Elia Viviani is to undergo testing for a heart condition. This, of course, may have serious ramifications not just for his season but also for his career. KONM hopes those tests reveal nothing untoward and that we can continue to enjoy watching Elia on the bike. The paragraphs on Viviani below have been left unchanged.
Martin, however, is not the highest profile member of this squad, an honour that goes to Elia Viviani.
At the time, the Italian’s move to Cofidis was seen as a big moment for the team, a marquee name for their return to the WorldTour. But, with obvious extenuating circumstances, Viviani hasn’t yet hit the heights that management would have hoped.
As with Peter Sagan, Twitter wisdom suggests the former European champion suffered more than most for the 2020 lockdown. Still, Viviani was good enough to earn several top fives across the season, which isn’t exactly terrible form. Again, like Sagan, Elia’s being judged by his own high standards.
In 2021, though, you’d suspect Cofidis will be expecting wins from Viviani. He and Martin are due to announce their plans to the media this week so we don’t yet know what races the sprinter will target. However it’s probable that there’s going to be at least one grand tour in his schedule and KONM doesn’t find it hard to believe that he’ll come out of this season with another stage-win in his palmarès.
All things considered, we have to give Viviani the benefit of the doubt that his 2020 was a blip. He’ll be back to winning ways in the coming months.
Whisper it, but Cofidis appear to have a much-improved classics lineup for 2021. We’ve mentioned Drucker and Wallays but there’s also Tom Bohli, Piet Allegaert and Christophe Laporte. That’s hardly a top-drawer selection but it’s not one to be taken lightly either. In fact, it’s quite an interesting one.
Wallays is a class act and has some very notable wins to his name, including two Paris-Tours, a Vuelta stage and a Dwars door Vlaanderen. He may well be the protected rider for Cofidis in the bigger classics, though he often seems to excel as a solo breakaway artist. KONM’s excited about what he can do for this team in 2021.
Allegaert, 26 today, has the potential to be a solid classics competitor. He made the step up from Pro Conti in 2020 but didn’t stand out but a top 20 at Roubaix in 2017 indicates he’s not one to be underestimated and with a stronger team around him he could impress this season. KONM will be keeping a hopeful eye out for the Belgian, especially on any occasions his team choose to give him leadership.
At 34 Drucker is likely to spend 2021 in a service role – both in the classics and as a leadout for Viviani. He’ll be a valuable rider for Cofidis, offering vast experience and an engine to be envied. This looks like a good signing. Bohli, one presumes, has also arrived as a domestique and will add some much-needed oomph to the classics engine. He could prove a vital support for his protected riders.
As for Laporte, it’s hard to know where he goes from here. He’s got bags of ability but is yet to come up with a truly major win, though fans of the excellent Tro-Bro Léon may object. Is he a classics guy? Is he a stage-race sprinter? KONM doesn’t have the answer to those questions but it’d be nice to see Laporte unleashed in 2021. He’s a good shout for this team to win a race, even if that might be on a more minor stage.
Another of Cofidis’ leaders will be Jesús Herrada. The Spanish climber is one of the few members of this squad to have won a major race for the team, haven taken a Vuelta stage in 2019 while this was still a Pro Conti outfit.
Herrada came close to another grand tour victory last season with second-place atop Mont Aigoual in stage 6 of the Tour, but he ultimately ended up winless in 2020. He’ll be hoping to rectify this in 2021 and you’d imagine that the Vuelta will be once again his primary target. He’s an excellent climber/puncher, so KONM wouldn’t rule him out of a victory or two.
Finally, it’s worth a nod to Simone Consonni, who’s had some decent results down the years but is very much second fiddle to his compatriot, Elia Viviani. KONM would like to see Consonni given a chance to race for himself in 2021; after a fourth-place on stage 11 of the Giro and a podium on stage 14 of the Tour, there’s no doubt that this guy is fast.
2021 team hotness rating: 6/10
Transfer business rating: 6.5/10
Likely 2021 leaders: Guillaume Martin, Elia Viviani, Jesús Herrada, Piet Allegaert, Jelle Wallays
Potential breakout riders: Piet Allegaert, Rémy Rochas
2021 kit rating: 5/10
Featured image: Marianne Casamance/Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons Licence cc-by-sa-2.0, edited by KONM