France will have one of the strongest line-ups for the UCI Road World Championships with Julian Alaphilippe, Romain Bardet, Thibaut Pinot, and Warren Barguil all named in the country's longlist for next month's event in Austria.
With nearly 5,000 metres of elevation gain across the 265-kilometre road race course, the 2018 Worlds is widely considered one for the climbers, and France has them in abundance.
Alaphilippe won two mountain stages of this year's Tour de France and won the polka-dot jersey for best climber, emulating Barguil's achievements in the previous edition. Alaphilippe is also a specialist in the hilly one-day classics, winning La Flèche Wallonne and the Clásica San Sebastián this year.
Bardet had a disappointing July, finishing sixth overall at the Tour de France after podiums in the two previous editions, but he remains France's leading Grand Tour rider. The 27-year-old also has one-day pedigree, finishing second at Strade Bianche and third at Liège-Bastogne-Liège this year, and fourth at Il Lombardia in 2016.
Pinot, who has also finished on the podium of the Tour de France and Il Lombardia, won the Tour of the Alps this year, where one of the stages took in three laps of the circuit to be used in the Worlds, featuring the Olympia climb. Bardet has also been to recon the course since the Tour de France.
With eight places up for grabs, 13 have been named in France's longlist. The others are: Lilian Calmejane, Kenny Elissonde, Tony Gallopin, Cyril Gautier, Guillaume Martin, Rudy Molard, Anthony Perez, Pierre Rolland, and French champion Anthony Roux. For the time trial, Alexis Gougeard has been named alongside Yoann Paillot.
"My choice was pretty much made for me, in looking at riders who have proven their climbing ability" said head coach Cyril Guimard. "So, as a consequence, on the longlist we find the best French climbers, but also all those who are able to do a quality support role for the team on such a difficult Worlds course we have this year."
Guimard said that riding the Vuelta a España could be an advantage when it comes to making the team. So far, Pinot and Rolland are the only two confirmed for the Spanish Grand Tour, with Bardet set to race in the Deutschland Tour next week instead.
Guimard will make his final decision at the end of the Vuelta, but will be keeping an eye on those taking a different path, such as Bardet and others in Germany, as well as those riding the week-long Tour of Britain and the one-day Tour du Doubs in France.
"We are going to follow all these riders in order to be certain that, with varying schedules, those selected can arrive in Austria at 100 per cent," said Guimard.
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