Following last year’s poor showing during his first year as head of the French national team, Laurent Jalabert has announced a radical change to the way he will prepare and select rider for the world championships in Australia.
“We have the same constraints as last year”, Jalabert said, hinting at the difficulties of dealing with the major French professional teams and the current UCI world rankings.
France has slipped to 11th place and being outside the top ten means the French risk having only six riders for the men's professional road race yet again this year. Only the top ten teams get nine places.
France has a slim chance of overtaking Slovenia and Russia in the Tour de France and the Clasica San Sebastian, the final two ranking races, but Luxemburg and the Netherlands are also very likely to score more points than France in July and jump past them.
France is suffering because only the points from the first five riders in the rankings are counted and this does not reflect the strength in depth of the French peloton. More worryingly, the current two highest ranked Frenchman, Jean-Christophe Péraud and Jérôme Coppel, will not take part in the Tour de France and so will not be able to score additional points.
Vuelta vital for selection
Last year, Jalabert announced a pre-selection of 16 riders just after the Tour de France. The final six and the reserve were chosen in mid-September.
“This time, all the French riders with a cycling licence will be pre-selected at the time we have to send the entries to the UCI”, said Jalabert after realising he missed some riders on form in the late season opportunities after Anthony Roux won a stage at the Vuelta a España.
Jalabert has also noticed that 15 of the top 20 at last year's World Championships rode the Vuelta.
“This is the ideal preparation”, he said. “Last time that France got a (bronze) medal, Anthony Geslin (in 2005 in Madrid) had done the Vuelta before. I'll only give a chance to other riders, if I don’t find enough riders motivated for the World’s among the participants of the Vuelta."
Jalabert also said he will not interfere with the work of the riders and their professional team coaches.
“I’ll stop giving advice to riders because I have more interesting things to do than bicker with coaches,” he said.
Last year Jalabert took care of the training of Coppel who came 55th in the world championship for time trial out of 65 finishers. In the road race, France’s best finisher was Sylvain Chavanel in 29th position.
Jalabert knows that France has to do much better this year.