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Alaphilippe to lead France at Imola World Championships

MERIBEL FRANCE SEPTEMBER 16 Podium Julian Alaphilippe of France and Team Deceuninck QuickStep Most Combative Rider Celebration during the 107th Tour de France 2020 Stage 17 a 170km stage from Grenoble to Mribel Col de la Loze 2304m TDF2020 LeTour on September 16 2020 in Mribel France Photo by Christophe PetitTesson PoolGetty Images
(Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Julian Alaphilippe will lead the French team at the World Championships road race in Imola on September 27, but national coach Thomas Voeckler has described his squad as “outsiders” for the event, which was moved from its original location in Switzerland due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Voeckler named a pre-selection of 13 riders on Wednesday and he will name the final eight-man squad after the Tour de France finishes this weekend. He will be without the services of Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale), who abandoned the Tour with a head injury, while there are question marks over the precise form of Alaphilippe and Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ), the men who had been expected to lead the French challenge on the original Aigle-Martigny circuit.

“If we were on the start in the route in Switzerland with Thibaut, Romain and Julian, we would obviously be among the favourites, but here, we are more outsiders,” Voeckler said, according to L’Équipe. “The lie of the land is different. Thibaut is experiencing a difficult Tour, Romain is out and Julian isn’t at 100 per cent.”

Although the total altitude gain of almost 5,000m on the Imola circuit is roughly equivalent to that planned for Martigny, Voeckler maintains that the Italian circuit will create a very different kind of race.

“We know now that it’s not a route for climbers like in Martigny, it’s more suited to puncheurs who can climb,” Voeckler said.

Alaphilippe – second to Worlds favourite Wout van Aert at Milan-San Remo and winner of stage 2 of the Tour – fits the bill as precisely the kind of puncheur-climber who could thrive on the Imola route. “Julian maybe isn’t at 100% yet but we know him. He still has another week after the Tour to grow in strength,” Voeckler said.

Despite his travails at the Tour, Pinot has been included in the long list, while Guillaume Martin’s fine displays at La Grande Boucle could earn him his first Worlds selection since he helped Pierre-Henri Lecuisinier to victory in the Junior road race in Copenhagen nine years ago.

Twelve of Voeckler’s pre-selection are currently in action at the Tour de France – Julien Bernard (Trek-Segafredo) is the exception – with Warren Barguil (Arkea-Samsic), Valentin Madouas (Groupama-FDJ) and Tour stage winner Nans Peters (AG2R La Mondiale) among those in contention.

Voeckler said that he will pick the first seven names on his Worlds team before the end of the Tour, though the full team will not be confirmed publicly until next Wednesday to allow more time for a decision on Pinot’s participation.

“Those seven will be told personally on Saturday so they can already get the Worlds in mind,” Voeckler said. “I want to keep Thibaut as a wildcard, so we’re going to wait to see if he’s going better.”

Rémi Cavagna (Deceuninck-QuickStep) and Benjamin Thomas (Groupama-FDJ) have been confirmed as France’s participants in the individual time trial on Friday, September 25. Neither man will take part in the road race.

Audrey Cordon-Ragot (Trek-Segafredo) will lead the French team in the women’s road race on Saturday, September 24, where she will be joined by Victorie Guilman (FDJ-Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope), Juliette Labous (Sunweb), Sandra Levenez (Arkéa-Samsic) and Evita Muzic (FDJ-Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope). Cordon-Ragot and Labous will also compete in the individual time trial.

France long list for World Championships elite men's road race: Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep), Warren Barguil (Arkéa-Samsic), Julien Bernard (Trek-Segafredo), Kenny Elissonde (Trek-Segafredo), Valentin Madouas (Groupama-FDJ), Guillaume Martin (Cofidis), Rudy Molard (Groupama-FDJ), Quentin Pacher (B & B Hotels-Vital Concept), Pierre-Luc Perichon (Cofidis), Nans Peters (Ag2r La Mondiale), Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ), Pierre Rolland (B & B Hotels-Vital Concept), Alexis Vuillermoz (Ag2r La Mondiale)