France isn't a favourite for the Elite men's world championship road race on Sunday but national team manager Laurent Jalabert counts on Romain Feillu's good form to deliver a better result than last year for his first experience at the head of the blue, white and red team. France's best finisher in 2009's world championships in Mendrisio, Switzerland was Sylvain Chavanel in 29th place.
Coaching France hasn't been an easy task for Jalabert. In June, he announced: "Only if I don't find enough riders motivated for the Worlds among the participants at the Vuelta, I'll give a chance to others."
In the group of seven riders he selected, only two completed the Spanish Grand Tour, Sébastien Hinault and William Bonnet, while Yoann Offredo pulled out after 10 days because of a knee injury. The FDJ prospect for the Classics, however, seems to have recovered from his crash.
Cyril Gautier and Anthony Geslin attracted Jalabert's attention at the Canadian Pro Tour races. Sylvain Chavanel didn't ride the Vuelta but he remains France's best rider for one-day races.
Riding for Vacansoleil, Romain Feillu didn't have a chance to take part in the Vuelta a España but the 26-year-old Frenchman won the GP Fourmies and collected a lot of good results recently. "Feillu is a true sprinter," Jalabert said. "He's in a great form and he's got the capacity to be up there at the end.
"We were told the course was for sprinters," added Jalabert who discovered a harder circuit than he thought. "Australia isn't just next door," he said to justify why he didn't come and see the course as his Italian colleague Paolo Bettini did in mid-July with four of his riders, Filippo Pozzato, Giovanni Visconti, Luca Paolini and Daniele Bennati.
In July, Jalabert was busy commentating at the Tour de France for France Television and radio station RTL.
"Pozzato and Philippe Gilbert will have to make the race hard to avoid [Tyler] Farrar, [Mark} Cavendish and [André] Greipel in the finale," Jalabert said. "We'll play an active role. We only have seven riders and other nations have nine but these seven riders don't like sitting in the bunch.
"Last year, we decided to wait and we were frustrated at the end. Our role will be more offensive this time around. All of our riders have their chance. One after the other, they'll go for breakaways because we don't have the serial finisher who can wait and do the big coup in the last lap. I remember that Charly Mottet gave us a lot of freedom in 1997."
1997 is the last time France won the world title with Laurent Brochard. Since then, they've only earned two bronze medals with Jean-Cyril Robin in 1999 and Anthony Geslin in 2005.
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