Ag2r La Mondiale will celebrate their fifteenth start when they return in January for the 2013 Santos Tour Down Under.
Mike Turtur, Race Director, Santos Tour Down Under says Ag2r La Mondiale is the only team to have competed every year since the first Tour Down Under in 1999.
“As the race celebrates 15 years in 2013, it will be great to have Ag2rLa Mondiale here alongside us commemorating this milestone as they have been with us every step of the way,” said Turtur.
The French team does not disappoint, laying claim to the most overall Santos Tour Down Under winners: Martin Elmiger in 2007, Simon Gerrans in 2006, Mikel Astarloza in 2003 and Gilles Maignan in 2000.
“The Ag2r La Mondiale team will be very competitive. They are bringing a group of experienced riders including Yauheni Hutarovich, the 2012 Belarus national road race champion,” said Turtur.
Hutarovich, a sprinter, joins Ag2r La Mondiale in 2013, transferring from the French FDJ-BigMat outfit. He has participated twice in the Santos Tour Down Under and believes he knows the route well.
“In 2012 I came close to a stage win and this year my goal is to achieve that, to get at least one stage victory," said Hutarovich. "My experience in this race is an important asset and a stage win will help me to start the 2013 season well. That is very important for self-confidence."
Climber Mikael Cherel believes Ag2R La Mondiale can place high in the final general classification.
“The main goal for us at the 2013 Santos Tour Down Under will be to get at least one rider in the top ten overall. I know I’m able to achieve this goal and I’m preparing myself for that,” said Cherel “I finished tenth overall in 2009 and I hope to get at least this rank and why not obtain an even better result. The overall classification should be determined on Willunga Hill that we climb twice.
“The Santos Tour Down Under is a great race that generates strong support and enthusiasm from the Australian spectators,” said Cherel. “Plus it's always nice for us to stay twenty days in Australia, under the sun, rather than in Europe where there are winter temperatures!”
The Ag2r La Mondiale team for the 2013 Santos Tour Down Under will be led by Team Manager Laurent Biondi (FRA) and includes riders: Davide Appollonio (ITA) Gédiminas Bagdonas (LIT) Guillaume Bonnafond (FRA) Mikael Cherel (FRA) Blel Kadri (FRA) Yauheni Hutarovich (BLR) Julian Kern (GER). More rider and team announcements will be issued over the coming weeks.
Photo: Blel Kadri, Picture: Getty Images