The Arkea-Amsic team are done with the warm-up races and they take part in Paris-Nice with ambition on Sunday – their first World Tour race this season. Team manager Emmanuel Hubert is upbeat. His team – professional but always human — is confident.
Emmanuel Hubert, how do you apprehend Paris-Nice ?
The team is getting better and better and Paris-Nice, one of our objectives, arrives at the right moment. Our two leaders, Warren Barguil and Andre Greipel, are on the right path and it’s a good omen for the coming weeks.
The selection for the Tour de France set aside, we are invited on Paris-Nice, it is not our due. We must respect the race, which has always been the case since we’ve been taking part, and we must perform there.
There is however no denial that the selection for the Tour de France is in the back of your mind…
We think about it, but not every day. If you want to improve you have to look ahead. I try to put the Tour selection aside because you can’t always be talking about it. Our team and our riders have a history with the Tour. Andre and Warren have made Tour history with 13 stage wins between themselves.
Is being selected for the Tour something you are obsessed by?
It is our mission to participate but it doesn’t prevent me from sleeping. The work is done and now we have to wait. The best way to get there is to start Paris-Nice ready to fight and perform.
When I look at the route, I know that every stage, apart from maybe the time trial, can suit us. Warren is very motivated by the GC but for him, we’re going to focus on stage wins first. The rest will come. Andre can also fancy in chances in the first three days. We picked Bram Weltens to get him in the right place before the sprints.
Your team has a history of causing upsets but is it more complicated in today’s cycling?
Our rivals keep an eye on us now. We now have charismatic riders and we must get results. We put pressure on our riders so that they do their jobs as professionals at 100 per cent and to help us climb the ladder.
Web ring them technical means, they have the physical means and we have been improving on the material and on the medical environment to help them recuperate.
The riders appreciate that and I am happy to see that they also have suggestions I’m happy when a rider tells me that he is going to pay for a camp or buy material to recuperate better. When I hear that Anthony Delaplace goes to the Cote d’Azur for 10 days with his family to work, it’s reassuring. We have been investing to get better and the riders are getting the message.
Does that mean that Arkea-Samsic is changing a lot ?
The riders are taking their mission seriously. Like I said, they are getting the message and they hear what we tell them. Over time, this kind of investment is something everyone is integrating. I have to stress that in the staff, and it is paramount, the employees, the mechanics, the physiotherapists, are massively involved. I believe in my team’s sustainability because the core of it is solid, reliable and stable.
The atmosphere must be good since riders like Anthony Delaplace, Benoît Jarrier, Florian Vachon, and others, have been here for a long time…
It’s a healthy team. The riders feel good here and they don’t want to go somewhere else. They feel good and invest in the team to make it a better place, as if it were their home. If you don’t feel good, you end up leaving but I see that some riders who receive interesting offers stay with us. They have what they need.
The riders’ level improves year after year, they are always closer and it is very hard to win races…
Cycling has always been tough but it’s more demanding now. The riders are being lifted up. A few years ago, there were only 70 riders able to finish Liege-Bastogne-Liege. Now they are 150 within 15 minutes. The level is very high. If you want to finish between 10thand 50th, you must be at a very high level. It’s more and more difficult to perform and to win but it’s also more interesting because you have to raise your level of requirements.
Has it been hard to get past a difficult 2018 season ?
I bring optimism! Yes 2018 was complicated. Of course there was some anger and even more but we could not keep dwelling on it and feel sorry for ourselves. It was important to lift our heads up and feel good. We are in a business using a two-wheel machine and at the end of the day it always spins in the right direction. Life is not just about good moments and victories. We have understood that it can take time but we have all our trump cards and it will eventually pay off. There are more serious things in life. A rider who breaks a wrist or a leg, it’s more serious than understanding why we’re not winning. There’s always a light at the end of the tunnel.
The team is contemplating applying for the World Tour. Have you set a date to make a decision?
We need results. My partners know my ambitions but we need to help them. Results create emulation. I count on Paris-Nice and Liege-Bastogne-Liege to create a momentum. I will make my decision before the start of the Tour de France but I’m not the only one deciding. I’ve always been ambitious, taking it one step at a time, improving the team year after year. We work hard but there are rules. Having 15-20 million euros does not allow you to snap your fingers and say ‘I’m in the World Tour’. We need results to convince the sponsors. They are awaiting them and it’s normal.
What will your role be on Paris-Nice ?
I will be ahead in the first stages, in contact with the sports directors. I’m not in the car behind the peloton anymore and I deal with the public and the media, I take care of the staff and the company. We have 60 employees and I love that. Today I also know that I’m well surrounded.
What would a successful Paris-Nice be?
A stage win and a top 10 in GC for Warren Barguil.