Romain Bardet will begin his final preparations for the Tour de France at the Critérium du Dauphiné this weekend. The Frenchman will lead a strong AG2R La Mondiale squad that includes Oliver Naesen, Alexis Vuillermoz, Tony Gallopin and Pierre Latour. Alexis Gougeard and Axel Domont complete the line-up.
Bardet finished sixth at last year’s race but appeared in the podium in 2016, finishing second behind Chris Froome. Bardet has not raced since the Ardennes last month, where he finished third at Liège-Bastogne-Liège and ninth at Flèche Wallone. He has one win to his name so far this season, after going on a solo attack at the Classic de l'Ardèche Rhône Crussol, beating Max Schachmann by 47 seconds.
Bardet finished an altitude training camp earlier this week, where the riders clocked up almost 1,500km of riding, and is ready to get back into racing. “After taking a good break, I headed to the Sierra Nevada to take part in my usual altitude training camp, which I finished on May 27th," he said in a team press release.
"It's an important moment in the year, and not only from a physical point of view, as I approach the Dauphiné with a lot of motivation. It's a fantastic race and acts as much more than just a launching pad for the Tour. Doing well there is a definite validation of the level of a rider and his team. The 2018 route is very selective, with important moments such as the team time trial stage, and the final days that will be nervous and very demanding. I am anxious to get back to racing."
The Criterium du Dauphine will take place from June 3 to June 10, beginning with a 6.6-kilometre time trial in Valence.
AG2R La Mondiale for the Critèrium du Dauphinè: Romain Bardet, Alexis Gougeard, Alexis Vuillermoz, Oliver Naesen, Tony Gallopin, Axel Domont and Pierre Latour.
Soler and Roson headline Movistar Dauphinè squad
Paris-Nice winner Marc Soler will headline a relatively youthful squad at the Critèrium du Dauphinè alongside Jaime Roson. Imanol Erviti will be the only rider above the age of 25, but Jasha Sutterlin will also provide a wealth of experience.
Completing the line-up for the Spanish squad at the eight-day race will be Jorge Arcas, Hector Carretero and Jaime Castrillo.
The 24-year-old Soler enjoyed a breakthrough win at Paris-Nice in March, beating Simon Yates after a long-range attack on the final day of racing. He then became the first reigning Paris-Nice champion in 31 years to take to the start line at Paris-Roubaix, spending most of the day in the breakaway before eventually abandoning.
He missed the Ardennes Classics and took a break following the one-day race before making a brief return at the three-day Vuelta Aragon in the middle of May. Roson won the overall classification at the Vuelta Aragon by four seconds over Delko Marseilles' Javier Moreno. The 25-year-old also finished eighth overall at Tirreno-Adriatico.
Movistar for the Critèrium du Dauphinè: Marc Soler, Jaime Roson, Imanol Erviti, Jasha Sutterlin, Jorge Arcas, Hector Carretero and Jaime Castrillo.
Flanders Classics takes on cyclo-cross
Tour of Flanders organiser Flanders Classics have decided to expand their repertoire into cyclo-cross. The Belgian company now owns the country’s biggest cyclo-cross series, the Superprestige.
"We are proud that the Superprestige now sails under the same flag as the Tour of Flanders. Road racing and cyclo-cross have a rich history in Flanders and we are now trying to bring this piece of history together. The cyclocross and the road season blend seamlessly with one another, as Wout Van Aert emphasized this spring with his strong performance in the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. Flanders Classics is pleased to receive the confidence from Etienne Gevaert and his team to further expand cyclo-cross,” Flanders Classics boss Wouter Vandenhaute in a press release.
The 2017-2018 Superprestige series consisted of eight events across Belgium and the Netherlands. Mathieu van der Poel won six of the men’s races and went on to win the overall competition. In the women’s series, Maud Kaptheijns got off to a storming start but a late surge from Sanne Cant saw her win by two points.
As well as the Tour of Flanders, Flanders Classics also runs Gent-Wevelgem, Dwars door Vlaanderen, Scheldeprijs, Brabantse Pijl and Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.
Lawrence Naesen out with mononucleosis
Lawrence Naesen (Lotto Soudal) has been ruled out of racing for the foreseeable future due to mononucleosis. The 25-year-old confirmed on Twitter that he would have to sit on the sidelines for a while as he recovers from the illness.
Naesen is in his first year at WorldTour level after signing up with Lotto Soudal at the end of last season. He is the younger brother of AG2R La Mondiale rider, and current Belgian national champion, Oliver.
Mononucleosis does not have a defined recovery period and can take anything from a few weeks to years to clear. Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) missed part of last season because of it but was able to return for the Tour de France. While Team Sky’s Benat Intxausti has struggled with it for several years, competing in just 20 days of racing since the start of the 2016 season.