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Aérogramme Day 02: The Madiot Family

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{L to R}: Elisa, Yvon and Marc Madiot this morning at the start of stage 2.
A Family Affair at FDJ

While there is little chance that Marc Madiot is a fan of funk legend Sly and the Family Stone, he manages his FDJ cycling team very much in the spirit of Stone’s 70’s classic, “It’s a Family Affair.” Madiot, the two time winner of the prestigious Paris-Roubaix cycling classic, built his team in 1997, along with his brother Yvon. As riders on the mighty Renault team, the two traded off French national champion jerseys in the 1980’s. And they remain inseparable today, as Yvon is one of the team directors.

Words: James Startt
Images: Yuzuru Sunada {opening image}, Startt {main image}
From: Zeeland, Netherlands

But family ties run even deeper at FDJ. Yvon’s daughter Elisa is the press officer. Julien Pinot, brother to the team’s top Tour de France hopeful, Thibaut, is one of the team’s trainers. Sophie Chavanel, physical therapist on the team, is married to Sebastien Chavanel, lead-out man the team’s sprinter, Arnaud Démare. And team rider Cedric Pinot, is the son of team director, Frank Pinot.

For some, the intense connection between the personal and professional, is incompatible with modern sport. Not for Madiot. “The family has always been important to me says Madiot. “It is not frequent, especially today, but it just comes naturally to me.”

Ironically, as a cycling champion himself, Madiot fostered the reputation as quite the bachelor, but he has always envisioned his team as the extension of his family.

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“Don’t forget Madiot launched his team only two years after retiring as a cyclist himself,” says Pierre Carrey, journalist for the French daily Libération. “So he relied first on those he knew best, his brother Yvon, but also old teammates like Martial Gayant, who is a director as well.”

“It’s hard to explain, but my philosophy has always been to build my team as the extension of my family,” says Madiot. “There is an instant sense of confidence when you work with family, and it provides an important base for the team to build on, a base that goes way back. Some of the staff I have known since the Renault years. That’s 30 years!”

For years, FDJ focused on developing young riders. Many, like Belgian Philippe Gilbert, would move on as they matured, but Madiot was always happy for their success.

Nevertheless, Madiot is particularly satisfied that riders like Thibaut Pinot have chosen to remain within the team’s ranks, even as he has developed into one of the world’s most promising Tour de France riders.  After his impressive third-place finish in the 2014 Tour, Pinot solicited interest from bigger, more international teams. But he never really considered leaving, knowing that at FDJ he had both freedom and support.

Madiot does admit that mixing the personal and the professional can provide complications of its own, but insists that they never last long. “A family,” says Madiot, “They can work through most problems.”

Check in daily as Startt brings a different personality to Aérogramme.