Tony Gallopin will take a step back from the spring Classics in 2019 in order to sharpen his focus on stage racing. The Frenchman finished 11th overall at this year's Vuelta a España and will head to the Giro d'Italia in May as co-leader of AG2R La Mondiale alongside Alexis Vuillermoz.
The French all-rounder describes his 2018 season as "complicated". It was bookended by victories - at the Etoile de Bessèges and at the Vuelta - but in the middle was plagued by illness and injury.
"I had bronchitis at Paris-Nice, crashed at Gent-Wevelgem, crashed at the Tour de l'Ain, I broke a rib at the French Nationals, abandoned the Tour de France, then at San Sebastián I was in the big crash with Egan Bernal and everyone," Gallopin said.
"But then I had a super end of the season, with a beautiful victory at the Vuelta, so it seemed like a good season in the end, but it was complicated."
The three weeks at the Vuelta have swayed Gallopin when it comes to deciding his direction in the coming years. He is a rider capable of competing for one-week stage races - and now of knocking on the door of a Grand Tour top 10 - but also one-day races.
Winner of San Sebastián in 2013, he also has potential in the spring Classics, both in the Ardennes and on the cobbles. Of the latter, it's significant that AG2R's leader Oliver Naesen feels Gallopin is his strongest teammate, but he'll be without him for much of next spring.
"I'd like to focus more on the stage races now, and being able to shine in the Grand Tours. My preference now is for the stage races," he says.
"The reason is that, as the years go by, I'm less and less explosive in the Classics. You also have to take a lot of risks - they're very dangerous races. Every year you have to prepare 100 per cent for them and then one crash and it ruins everything.
"In stage racing I feel stronger and more robust, and that corresponds better with my characteristics. In the coming years I think I'll feel more at ease in the stage races. The Classics are special and I do like them, but it's hard to do everything. I think with my characteristics it's more realistic to target a top 10 or top five in stage races than in Classics."
Gallopin will start his 2019 season in his traditional way, with the one-day GP La Marseillaise in late January and then the Etoile des Besseges stage race in early February. His first major targets will be Paris-Nice, where he is rarely found outside the top 10, and then the Volta a Catalunya. He will then skip the majority of the spring Classics, dropping in only for the Tour of Flanders, before preparing for the Giro.
Gallopin knows he's not going to win a Grand Tour, and while he wants to have a more concerted crack at GC, he's not going to obsess over it.
"The Vuelta gave me lots of confidence, I really enjoyed it. it was very hard and the level was very high but the level I had there was great. I want to build on that, whereas I enjoyed the classics a lot less, and that guided my decision for next year," he said.
"It's complicated, because the level is so high and the parcours are very difficult. I lost a fair bit of weight for the Vuelta, which is something I need to continue with, but for me the high high mountains, I can get over them, but it's still complicated. In a Grand Tour I can maybe target a top 10 but probably not a podium or top five. I have to be realistic, the level is really very high.
"If I go to the Giro, maybe there's GC but I'd also like to win a stage there too. I've won one at the Tour, won one at the Vuelta, so I would love to win one at the Giro to complete the set. I won't be going to Italy saying 'I want to do top 10'. It'll be 'win a stage, hang in there on GC, and if I blow up, I blow up and I'll go in breakaways'. So it's not 'all-in' for GC."
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