Bryan Coquard has described his “great disappointment” at not being able to ride the Tour de France in July, saying the news that his Vital Concept-B&B Hotels team aren't invited still hasn’t sunk in yet.
The final two of the four wildcards for the Tour were handed out last week but went the way of rival French Professional Continental teams Direct Energie and Arkea-Samsic.
Vital Concept are a relatively new team, set up by Jérome Pineau in 2018, but hoped to secure a spot with Coquard and former Tour stage winner Pierre Rolland after missing out in their debut season.
The decision means that Coquard, who was left out of Direct Energie’s 2017 Tour squad in a spat with manager Jean-René Bernaudeau that led to him signing for Vital Concept, won’t have ridden the Tour since 2016.
“It’s a great disappointment, but it is what it is. I don’t have a great deal to say. It still hasn’t really sunk in, I think, so I don’t have much to say about it," Coquard told Cyclingnews in Bruges at the Driedaagse Brugge-De Panne.
“For sure, we did everything we could do be there. In the end, we weren’t selected. That’s how it is.”
In an interview with Cyclingnews last month, the 26-year-old pointed out that ASO had promised to base the decision for the final two wildcards on purely sporting criteria and seemed confident there would be ‘good news for July’.
In terms of results, Direct Energie clearly had the strongest case in what was seen as a three-horse race. Arkea-Samsic, however, who boast Warren Barguil and Andre Greipel, only have one victory so far this year – Greipel’s stage win at the Tropicale Amissa Bongo. Vital Concept, meanwhile, have won three times – twice through Lorenzo Manzin at Amissa Bongo and once through Coquard at Etoile de Bessèges.
“I don’t know how they came to their decision, but that doesn’t interest me,” Coquard said.
“It’s not about whether or not it was fair. The decision has been made and it’s not going to change.”
As for what happens now, Coquard isn’t sure and will have to go back to the drawing board. In the more immediate future, his appearance at De Panne - 65th place after being held up by a crash - will be followed by Dwars door Vlaanderen next Wednesday, and Amstel Gold Race in April, with his team not invited to Gent-Wevelgem or the Tour of Flanders.
“We don’t know yet, we’ll have to work it out. We’ll have to find other races in July,” Coquard said.
“The main change will be that I’ll take less of a break after Amstel, that’s for sure. There are some nice objectives in front of me, up to Amstel. After that, the rest of the season, we’ll have to see.”
Last year, when Vital Concept were similarly uninvited to the Tour, Coquard did not race in July, returning at the Tour of Denmark in August. After Amstel, he rode the Tour de Yorkshire, followed by the Four Days of Dunkirk, the Baloise Belgium Tour, the Critérium du Dauphiné, the Route d’Occitanie, and the French national championships.
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