French national team coach Laurent Jalabert, who took part in the Ironman World Championship 70.3 last week-end in Las Vegas, Nevada, has explained his choice of riders for the upcoming cycling Worlds to L'Equipe. Jalabert was able to nominate a total of nine riders for the road race - which hasn't happened since 2008 - and he took advantage of the numbers to create a team of puncheurs in full support of sole leader Thomas Voeckler (Europcar).
Despite the fact that the finish line will be located about 1700m after the summit of the Cauberg in Valkenburg, Jalabert did not believe in a sprint. "I chose to put my money on a hard race, not a sprint finish," he explained. "Even if there are still 80 riders at the foot of the last climb, I think that there will be a big bang on the Cauberg. I'm convinced of that, even if Boonen could win it - but Boonen is more than a sprinter..."
The team is thus composed around Voeckler, France's most punchy rider at the moment, with Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) in a secondary role due to his focus on the time trial events and less successful performances this season. "I think that Thomas has the ideal profile and that he will be the most striking in the last lap," Jalabert added.
Nevertheless, Chavanel might play a key part in the French coach's team tactic. "I always told Sylvain that he was best when he attacked at 50 kilometres before the finish," as he did at the 2011 Tour of Flanders and on many more occasions. Chavanel's qualities as a top time triallist will only be to his advantage if the race unfolds in this way.
But the other riders on the team are also highly valued, and not only present to work for Voeckler - even if that is the masterplan. "I don't want to restrain anyone," Jalabert continued. "I was the team leader, too, in 1997, and finally it was Brochard who won... Gallopin has a good finishing speed for example, and I think he would be able to follow a group up the Cauberg, for example."
Still, 2012 Tour de France polkadot jersey winner Voeckler remains Jalabert's best bet, and he was unconditional about the support he needed for his team leader - whose strong character is not unanimously accepted in the French peloton. "I told the riders that if they weren't ready to come and work for Voeckler, it would be a problem. And I can tell you that for all the other eight riders, there is no problem," he concluded.