Tony Gallopin will return to the spring Classics and a more traditional race programme in 2020 after what he describes as the worst season of his career.
The Frenchman, who won a stage and wore the yellow jersey at the 2014 Tour de France, crashed repeatedly this year, continuing the overwhelming theme of 2018.
He has signed a two-year contract extension with AG2R La Mondiale but his first two years with the French outfit have run anything but smoothly.
“It was a shit season – my worst as a pro,” Gallopin told Cyclingnews at AG2R La Mondiale’s pre-season get together in the French Alps last week.
“I didn’t win a race, and for me that’s a problem, because I race my bike to win races. Voila, there were a lot of crashes, bad luck. It’s been complicated.”
He abandoned Paris-Nice on the final day before injuring his shoulder at the Volta a Catalunya. At the Giro d'Italia, a key target, he injured his knee and was forced to leave the race on stage 16.
After building his form back up for the Tour de France, he suffered a heavy fall at the French national championships, forcing him into the Grande Boucle hampered by injury for a second year in a row. During the race, the crashes and punctures continued to pile up to the point where he was even stopped in his tracks by a rogue umbrella.
“At that point, you have to laugh about it,” Gallopin conceded.
“I don’t know why it happened. Beforehand I almost never crashed but in the past two years it’s been every other race. It’s been a spiral.
“It’s frustrating, because a lot of work goes into getting into top form, and the moment I hit it, I crashed. Of course, it’s difficult at times, but what can you do? I think all sportspeople go through periods like this. You have to make do.”
Gallopin will be hoping his luck turns with the new year, but he has also made changes to his race programme. Many questioned his decision, this time last year, to abandon the Classics in order to focus on stage racing, and he will now click ‘undo’.
“Last year I tried new things with Catalunya and the Giro, but I did not enjoy Catalunya and the Giro was complicated,” he said.
“Next year I’ll be going back to more of a traditional calendar, with Paris-Nice followed by the Classics.”
Gallopin will race Milan-San Remo, E3-Harelbeke and the Tour of Flanders in the spring, with a few others potentially thrown in. Oliver Naesen, the team’s Classics leader, has spoken about how highly he rates Gallopin on the cobbles, and expressed his disappointment at his absence last year.
“I have no worries about racing the Classics, and Oli is a good leader so I’m happy to be back with him,” Gallopin said. “It’s a good group we have now for those races. With a bit of anticipation, I can hopefully play a role.”
Gallopin plans to start quietly before hitting his stride at Paris-Nice. After the Classics, the focus will be on the Tour de France, via the Criterium du Dauphine and national championships. At the Tour, he’ll have increased freedom, given the absence of team leader Romain Bardet, who’s targeting the Giro.
Wherever he goes, there is one burning ambition: “I want to win races.
“Cycling, for me, is about winning races – at least once during the season. It’s not often happened to me that I’ve not won a race, and I don’t want it to happen again.”
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Patrick is an NCTJ-trained journalist, and former deputy editor of Cyclingnews, who has seven years’ experience covering professional cycling. He has a modern languages degree from Durham University and has been able to put it to some use in what is a multi-lingual sport, with a particular focus on French and Spanish-speaking riders. Away from cycling, Patrick spends most of his time playing or watching other forms of sport - football, tennis, trail running, darts, to name a few, but he draws the line at rugby.