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Analysing France's men's and women's 2022 Road World Championships teams

Labous Alaphilippe France Worlds 2022 Getty Images composite
Juliette Labous and Julian Alaphilippe head up strong French squads at this year's Worlds (Image credit: Getty Images composite)

Ahead of the 2022 UCI Road World Championships, Cyclingnews is taking a deep dive into the key teams for the elite road races. Here, we put France under the microscope. 

History

The triple is on: Julian Alaphilippe has gone two in a row in the elite men's road race, triumphant in Imola and Flanders with his late solo attacks. Romain Bardet was also second at Innsbruck in 2018. It's been a rosy story in recent years for les Bleus but before Alaphilippe, their last rainbow jersey winner was Laurent Brochard in 1997, making it a long wait.

Pauline Ferrand-Prévot was a surprise champion in 2014, which is also the last time the French had a podium finisher in the elite women's race. They haven't finished in the top ten since Roxane Fournier sprinted to sixth in 2016.

Overall, the French men and women have both won ten elite road race titles, making them the third most prolific nation in history behind Belgium and Italy.

However, Jeannie Longo is the most successful individual in history, with five victories (in 1985, 1986, 1987, 1989 and 1995).

Line-up

Men elite

  • Bruno Armirail (Groupama-FDJ)
  • Julian Alaphilippe (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl)
  • Romain Bardet (Team DSM)
  • Rémi Cavagna (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl)
  • Christophe Laporte (Team Jumbo-Visma)
  • Valentin Madouas (Groupama-FDJ)
  • Quentin Pacher (Groupama-FDJ)
  • Florian Sénéchal (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl)
  • Pavel Sivakov (Ineos Grenadiers)

Women elite

  • Aude Biannic (Movistar Team)
  • Coralie Demay (St Michel-Auber93)
  • Juliette Labous (Team DSM)
  • Marie Le Net (FDJ-Suez-Futuroscope)
  • Evita Muzic (FDJ-Suez-Futuroscope)
  • Gladys Verhulst (Le Col-Wahoo)
  • Jade Wiel ( FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope)

Key riders

LEUVEN BELGIUM SEPTEMBER 26 Julian Alaphilippe of France celebrates at finish line as race winner during the 94th UCI Road World Championships 2021 Men Elite Road Race a 2683km race from Antwerp to Leuven flanders2021 on September 26 2021 in Leuven Belgium Photo by Luc ClaessenGetty Images

Alaphilippe won number two in Leuven – can he take a third rainbow jersey in Wollongong? (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Men

Julian Alaphilippe needs little introduction: he's the defending champion, a swaggering puncheur with the looks of a medieval troubadour. He should excel on the climb and descent of Mount Pleasant, which defines the Wollongong city circuit. However, a crash at Liège-Bastogne-Liège blighted his season, suffering a collapsed lung, fractured shoulder blade and broken ribs. He didn't race for three months following the late April incident.

Falling on stage 11 of the Vuelta a España and abandoning with a dislocated shoulder was another blow. Alaphilippe was quickly back on the bike, but it was another setback for a man racing against time to get into his best shape.

He has a strong supporting cast. Christophe Laporte is coming off the best year of his career and shone at the Canadian WorldTour races, in service of Wout van Aert. In Valentin Madouas, a winner of the Tour du Doubs and a Tour of Luxembourg stage in the last month, and Romain Bardet, they have in-form, consistent racers who can be relied upon to take their own chances if necessary.

The inclusion of Pavel Sivakov, six months after his official change of nationality from Russian, adds another attacking possibility. He raced prominently at the Vuelta before abandoning while sat ninth overall with a COVID-19 positive. This selection also gives Sivakov the rare distinction of having raced the Worlds for two different nations.

PASSO DEL MANIVA ITALY JULY 07 Juliette Labous of France and Team DSM celebrates winning during the 33rd Giro dItalia Donne 2022 Stage 7 a 1129km stage from Prevalle to Passo del Maniva 1743m GiroDonne UCIWWT on July 07 2022 in Passo del Maniva Italy Photo by Dario BelingheriGetty Images

Labous triumphing at the Giro d'Italia Donne earlier this season (Image credit: Getty Images)

Women

Juliette Labous has stepped up in 2022, winning the Vuelta a Burgos and not placing outside of the top ten in the six stage races she has done this season. She also won one of the toughest stages of the Giro d'Italia Donne finishing on the Passo Maniva. Channelling that attacking spirit in Wollongong would be no bad thing.

She will lead this team alongside fellow 23-year-old Evita Muzic, who finished four places behind her in eighth at the first Tour de France Femmes and continues to develop well.

There is a key absentee in Audrey Cordon-Ragot, who had not missed the Worlds since 2010 and is integral to the team, but is out due to 'medical reasons'. Others will have to step up, including, Aude Biannic, the 31-year-old who has reams of experience and will be lining up for the tenth time in this race.

Watch out too for Eglantine Rayer and Romain Grégoire, who are turning pro with Team DSM and Groupama-FDJ respectively in 2023. The talents will be challenging for the rainbow jersey in the junior women's and U23 men's road races.

Strengths

Men

Even the presence of a sub-par Alaphilippe is a bonus. "I am especially happy he's here because without him, the French team is not the same," French selector Thomas Voeckler told L'Equipe.

"It's Julian; he's our beacon, he's always smiling, he brings the group to life and is the first to work for others if necessary." And it's a group which has a special personal bond after his 2019 and 2020 triumphs.

This strong and experienced team doesn't have any noticeable weak points in it and an Australian World Championships also means that those making the trip especially want to be there.

Christophe Laporte and Valentin Madouas appear to be in particularly strong form and can be up there in the business end of affairs, alongside Bardet, whose attacking philosophy is advantageous.

This time round, France may not have the strongest rider on the start line, given Alaphilippe's tribulations, but their strength in depth could give them more cards to play into the finale than most of their rivals.

Women

The French will miss late withdrawal Cordon-Ragot, but Movistar domestique Aude Biannic is still a handy road captain. On top of their key riders, Gladys Verhulst was ninth at the European Continental Championships road race and fifth at the Classic Lorient Agglomération in Plouay. She can be a valuable helping asset.

As an underdog outfit, the responsibility is off them and Muzic or Labous should ask questions of stronger rivals. If they don't attack and wait, they will be chasing after strong riders who are likely to get the better of them.

Weaknesses

CABO DE GATA SPAIN AUGUST 31 Julian Alaphilippe of France and Team QuickStep Alpha Vinyl reacts to a fall during the 77th Tour of Spain 2022 Stage 11 a 1912km stage from ElPozo Alimentacin Alhama de Murcia to Cabo de Gata LaVuelta22 WorldTour on August 31 2022 in Cabo de Gata Spain Photo by Justin SetterfieldGetty Images

Will Alaphilippe be at full strength following his Vuelta a España crash? (Image credit: Justin SetterfieldGetty Images)

Men

Uncertainty. The only world beater on the squad is Alaphilippe, but who knows how well he is going? The French team has had to adapt and it would be a considerable surprise if he makes it three rainbow jerseys in a row given his disrupted season. Yet, he wouldn't go to Australia if he didn't think he could play a role, be that as a leader or helper.

How Alaphilippe is going on the day will define how the French race. Voeckler believes several other team members have the level to be world champion, which seems a generous and predictably partisan assessment. Madouas, Laporte and Bardet can certainly feature in the top ten, though.

It's a strong and hardy French team, but there are also notable absentees, such as David Gaudu, Warren Barguil and Benoît Cosnefroy. They could have been Alaphilippe allies or outside bets in their own right.

Women

Juliette Labous and Evita Muzic have had stellar seasons but they don't have particular pedigree in the WorldTour one-day races. They are regularly on the fringes of the battle for victory.

Going on the form book, they're more likely to finish outside the top 10. Even finishing in a small group sprint of favourites, you would not expect them to be challenging for a win.

Then, like most of the field, the French will be up against the fearsome might of the Netherlands and Italy. Half of their line-ups could challenge for the podium. It'll be quite a task to not be consigned to also-rans.

The view from France

"I'm more pessimistic than optimistic about Alaphilippe's chances of pulling on the rainbow jersey," said former French selector Cyrille Guimard, speaking on RMC's Grand Plateau podcast.

"But he has such charisma and a capacity to work, he also has very good qualities within the team. He leads it and if he's there, there's no worries. And then you never know: whatever happens, he'll add something."

His colleague Pierre Ammiche added: "I find it hard to imagine that Alaphilippe will be the designated leader with all the others working for him. Who will be free, who can take his chance and provoke things?

"Imagine if Alaphilippe attacks 40km from the finish: other teams will work to bring him back. It can be an opportunity for others, like Bardet, to fight for the win."

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