The French squad officially came to life in 2008 as the Vienne Futuroscope team, but until recently lacked star power to produce fireworks at big races. That should change in 2021, as a two-year contract extension kicks in for Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig, who signed to race in 2020 and effectively became the team leader but was limited in performances due a season shortened by the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
The Francaise Des Jeux team have retained 12 riders representing five countries from its 2020 roster and the only addition being U23 Italian road champion Marta Cavalli, who took the roster spot opened by the retirement of Sarah Marche.
Team Manager Stephen Delcourt said the 2021 lineup will be “a stable, young, ambitious squad to conquer the biggest races in the world in order to make our colours shine.”
Manager: Stephen Delcourt
Squad size: 13
Average age: 24.8
How did they fare in 2020?
WorldTour ranking: 10th
Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig – her scheduled re-start in July led to an all-important first win in FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope colours and a string of consistently impressive performances. However, the 25-year-old closed the year still searching for her debut WorldTour win.
“The season was short, dense, stressful but really satisfying. We won early in Australia with Brodie [Chapman] on the Torquay race and then we were cut off in our momentum. We resumed the season and very quickly the momentum came back with the victory of Cecilie [Uttrup Ludwig] atop the San Luca climb that decides the Giro dell’Emilia in Italy.
“Then Evita [Muzic] took the first victory at World Tour level for the team in the last stage of the Giro Rosa. We finish in ninth position in the UCI team classification, 5 riders in the world top 100…enough to be more than satisfied,” Delcourt said about the 2020 season.
Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig: Uttrup Ludwig has proven herself in past years at Bigla with results that included a memorable third place in the 2019 Tour of Flanders. She racked up top ten results in almost half of her 21 race days in 2020, with a solo win in the Giro dell’Emilia followed by the mountains classification in the Giro Rosa and second in La Fleche Wallonne.
At the Giro Rosa she moved to fourth on GC on stage 2 and never dropped from that position. While just off the podium in that stage race in 2020, two places better than 2018, the Dane is ready to propel herself to glory in a signature race. A Women’s WorldTour victory still evades her, and she wants to win high-profile races to confirm her move to the French team.
“Coming fourth in the Giro is one of the worst results, in a way, because you’re the first rider left with nothing, in a way but I know that it was still one of my best results in the race. It still didn’t feel that satisfying, if that makes sense, and that makes me even more motivated for next year,” Uttrup Ludwig told Cyclingnews at the end of last season.
Marta Cavalli: The 22-year-old Cavalli raced four years at the Continental level with Valcar Travel & Service, and will begin her two-year contract at FDJ with a fresh focus on one-day races as well as support for Ludwig in select stage races and continued success on the track.
Cavalli should be a pleasant surprise, just as she was in 2018 by winning the Italian women’s elite road race title at the age of 20. Her career highlights in 2019 include second at the Brabantse Pijl, a stage win and second overall at the Giro delle Marche in Rosa, and fourth at the GP de Plouay. This past season she took bronze in the Italian road race championships and was fourth on stage 7 at the Giro Rosa.
Evita Muzic: At just 21 years of age, Evita Muzic brought the first WorldTour victory to the team in 2020, and had top ten results at Giro dell’Emilia and in the U23 road race at the European Continental Championships. She was the champion in the French U23 road race one year before.
Her signature victory in Italy last year was taken on a summit finish on the ninth and final stage of the race, after surviving the early break of 27 riders across 109.5 kilometres. The win moved Muzic to 10th on the GC and second in the youth classification for the Giro Rosa.
Brodie Chapman: Australian climber Brodie Chapman sparked the beginning of last year with the team’s first win, at the one-day Race Torquay, which was bookended by top 10s on stage 4 of the Santos Women’s Tour Down Under and then the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race.
While at Team TIBCO-SVB for two seasons prior to the switch last year, Chapman won GC titles at the 2018 Women’s Herald Sun Tour and the 2019 Tour of the Gila. At 29 she is not the oldest rider, but as a proven veteran will provide mentorship for a roster filled with youth.
“It’s the first time we managed to recruit the cyclists we want,” Delcourt said. “But what touches me the most is that this group has character! Cécilie is the perfect example of this and she pushes the group upwards.”
The all-rounder Uttrup Ludwig will be the engine to drive her team, which include seven French riders and include four riders under the age of 22. The 21-year-olds include Clara Copponi, who was the bronze medalist in the women’s elite road race national championships last year, and Muzic, who took bronze in the U23 time trial nationals.
The 20-year-old French duo of Jade Wiel and Marie Le Net have already shown they are ready to take on all contenders. Le Net earned two medals in the 2020 U23 nationals, silver in the road race and bronze in the TT. The year before, she took fourth in the women’s elite road race, helping her teammate Wiel to the title. Another teammate, Victorie Guilman, now 24, earned the silver in the 2019 women’s elite road race.
Even with the addition of Uttrup Ludwig this past year, the team still lacked consistency in the big races to put them on the top step of the podium. This was most evident at the Giro Rosa, where the team finished 11th in the team time trial in Grosseto for the opening stage. The time lost here could have put Uttrup Ludwig on the final GC podium instead of her fourth position. The team continues to be represented among the results and will require a renewed focus on supporting the team leader in order to rack up the wins in one-day races and stage wins, and be a contender on the WorldTour.
FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope have developed a stable of talent and invested in infrastructure to help the team as well. The new year began with new Poli teamwear, updated Lapierre bikes with a metallic navy blue look and a new service course in Jaunay-Marigny, in western France, which features a public shop, workshops for mechanics, bike fitting space, changing rooms, offices, and a ‘Zwift room’ for indoor training.
The team is prepared to kick it up a notch to support a leader in Classics and WorldTour stage races, and expect Uttrup Ludwig to take the reigns as the leader.
Look for the FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope white and gray jerseys to mix it up more often in breakaways and land on some of the biggest podiums in the 2021.