Although Groupama-FDJ's full eight-rider line-up for this year's Tour de France has yet to be announced, Valentin Madouas has talked about his excitement at having already been selected for his Tour debut, during which he'll ride for team leader and GC contender Thibaut Pinot. It will be the second Grand Tour of his career for Madouas, having finished 13th overall at his first Giro d'Italia last season.
"It's obviously a special emotion when you know that you're going to participate in the most beautiful race in the world," 23-year-old Madouas said on his team's website on Sunday. "In the back of my mind, I thought I would do the Tour at least once in my career, so it's a little recognition, and it makes me feel good.
"However, until it was officially announced, I didn't necessarily want to believe it would happen. I didn't want to put it in my head like it was done and be disappointed afterwards," he admitted. "Being among the first riders confirmed is a nice bonus. This will allow me to prepare peacefully, and it means that I don't have to be in shape too early to win my spot, and that I don't have to do too much to prove that I'm doing well. My goal is to be in good shape by the end of August."
Speaking about the sheer magnitude of the Tour – which has been rescheduled for August 29-September 20 – and the pressure that comes with it, Madouas said that he's excited to experience it, but that he's ready for whatever the team requires of him.
"To participate in such a great event with so much pressure is something that I want to discover," he said. "When you team up with a rider who can win the biggest race in the world, it only makes you want to do one thing: be the best you can be during the race and turn yourself inside out for him.
"We obviously don't have as much pressure on us as Thibaut does, but we'll still put a lot of pressure on ourselves to help him realise his dream and that of the team," said Madouas. "There's a little necessary pressure, but it's rather positive in that we have a major objective."
Madouas – who is the son of former pro Laurent Madouas, who rode for teams including Z, La Vie Claire, Motorola and Festina – is in his third season with Groupama-FDJ, and was second at the GP La Marseillaise earlier this season.
In 2018, in his first year with the team, he won French one-day race Paris-Bourges after just about holding off the fast-approaching bunch as the last rider from the day's breakaway, and it was followed up by his impressive 13th overall in his Grand Tour debut at last season's Giro.
Now, the young Frenchman wants to delve further into discovering exactly which kind of races suit him best, and his Tour debut will go some way to helping him find out. After the Tour, Madouas will follow a Classics programme, and ride the Ardennes Classics, followed by the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix.
"By doing it all at once, I think I'll be able to see where I have the most fun and where I feel I'm at my best," said Madouas of his busy racing schedule. "I'll also have to be able to move from the teammate role to that of leader.
"It'll be interesting, especially in terms of looking ahead to the rest of my career," he continued. "It will be kind of a starting point. If I can handle this, it will reassure me, allow me to have more specific goals and possibly become a more complete rider than I am now."