Bouhanni and Demare headline French team for World Championships
Coquard misses out, while leadership will be decided when squad reaches Qatar
Nacer Bouhanni and Arnaud Demare will lead France at the World Championships road race in Qatar next month, giving the team two strong options but also a potential leadership headache.
Bryan Coquard, who won 11 races in the first half of the season, does not make the nine-man team, announced on Monday, but is at the top of the list of substitutes.
Aside from Coquard's Direct Energie teammate Adrien Petit, the line-up is composed evenly of trade teammates of Bouhanni and Demare. From Bouhanni's Cofidis leadout train come Christophe Laporte, Geoffrey Soupe, and Cyril Lemoine, while Yoann Offredo, William Bonnet, and Marc Sarreau are all part of Demare's FDJ team.
"I based the decision on experience, results, and performances at the highest level, both in the so-called Classics that have the possibility of echelons, and those races that demand experience in the sprints," said head coach Bernard Bourreau of his selection.
"Also based on the teams which have squads who are still out there at the big WorldTour races, like the Eneco Tour which just finished this weekend."
While the high-profile German leadership tussle between Andre Greipel and Marcel Kittel has grabbed most of the headlines, the French's is no less intriguing, with past tensions between Bouhanni and Demare well documented.
Their rivalry stretches back to their pre-professional days and the tensions came to the boil while they were together at FDJ in 2014, with team manager Marc Madiot describing them as "two cocks in the henhouse". After losing out to Demare in selection for Milan-San Remo and the Tour de France in 2014 - and also losing to him at the French nationals - Bouhanni decided to move to Cofidis for 2015.
The largely flat 257km Doha route, which features finishing laps of a fast but sinuous circuit on the Corniche, is expected to culminate in a bunch sprint, though the length of the race and the early foray into the exposed desert are factors which could make it a more open race.
In terms of performances this season, Bouhanni has arguably been the superior sprinter, with nine victories to Demare's four, but the FDJ man's win at Milan-San Remo - proof of his worth in a long one-day race - perhaps evens out the balance of power.
"We are going to decide on the tactics we'll employ in Doha when we're out there and, above all, we will determine the roles of each rider according to the conditions and eventualities that may materialise in the race in Qatar," added Bourreau.
French team for the World Championships road race: Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis), Arnaud Démare (FDJ), Christophe Laporte (Cofidis), Yoann Offredo (FDJ), Adrien Petit (Direct-Energie), Cyril Lemoine (Cofidis), William Bonnet (FDJ), Geoffrey Soupe (Cofidis), Marc Sarreau (FDJ)
Substitute riders: Bryan Coquard (Direct Energie), Alexis Gougeard (Ag2r-la Mondiale), Angelo Tulik (Direct Energie) et Florian Sénéchal (Cofidis), Jérémy Roy (FDJ).
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