When I signed for FDJ back in 2016, it was kind of a shock for many of my Italian mates. An Italian on a French team? Yes, it was strange, even for me.
I came from two successful seasons with Katusha: as lead-out man for Alexander Kristoff, we won many races. I would have liked to stay but the team’s future was in doubt: the arrival of Alpecin had not yet been confirmed, so there was a lot of uncertainty. So I took a chance and moved north.
It was the fastest negotiation of my career – after finding out that I was interested in the idea, Marc Madiot contacted my agent and said the amount and the duration of the contract.
I tried to raise it, but the answer was a straight “No, but if it’s okay tomorrow, you have the contract.” He was as good as his word. I believe that the negotiation lasted three days, but only because I was very slow in responding to e-mails!
I knew who Marc was, but I didn’t know him personally. I remembered that crazy horse who was screaming and cheering for his rider, during a stage of the  Tour de France.
I thought he was really mad, but, since I didn’t speak French then, I only felt the energy, without really understanding the meaning of what he was saying.
At the first team meeting in France, in November 2016, there was the so-called “great service of Marc”, my first. My French was still beginner’s level, I didn’t understand much of what he said.
Then, his energy and tone of voice rose and rose. The last few minutes he was yelling. YELLING! I remember Ignatas Konovalovas turning to me and saying in English: “I know he looks angry, but he’s actually motivating us.”
I had always been used to team managers who know little about cycling: not because they never rode a bike or anything, but simply because they became busier over time, finding sponsors or keeping the budget in check.
I have always seen Marc differently: as soon as he can, he jumps into the team car or spectates at a juniors or cyclo-cross race. I think he must live and breath cycling, the real one, the old style: little tactics and pushing hard. Pro cycling has not been like this for many years, long before I turned pro.
But Madiot will never get on the team bus and put pressure on you because the team has not won much, no. He will gather everyone around and begin one of his motivating speeches: “Victory is a consequence, the destiny of what you know how to do: do it with energy, with determination, without giving up a milimetre, because you are cyclists”. Not champions – he never uses this word. Men and cyclists.
In an increasingly international, modern and technologically-advanced sport (as it should be), Madiot is the rare bird that brings me back to my childhood – when I was racing because I wanted to. I wanted the challenge, the victory and the feelings of beating and being beaten.
All the rest, the salary, the too many races, the stress of this life, it’s always there, it doesn’t go away, but when you get on your bike, after hearing a speech from him, you can leave him on the bus.
The 2017 Tour was quite a disaster for our team. After winning a stage with Arnaud [Démare], we got four riders time cut in a single stage. One was sick, one was injured by a fall, two simply there to help the leader – as I was.
The following morning, a rest day for the Tour circus, I talked to Marc after lunch. I told him I was on a down: I had never abandoned a Grand Tour and I was sorry for the team: I felt I was better than that.
He looked at me quietly and said: “Jacopo, do you know how many Tours de France I raced and saw? This is cycling. Next year, there will be another Tour, you’ll have your way to make up for it.”
In 2018, we all returned to the Tour we managed to win only the 18th stage. Not because we were the strongest, but because we wanted it.
Jacopo Guarnieri races for Groupama-FDJ