While France is set to have a full complement of nine riders at the world championships road race in Copenhagen in September, manager Laurent Jalabert has acknowledged that prospective leader Romain Feillu (Vacansoleil-DCM) will struggle to regain fitness in time for the race.
Feillu crashed and broke his collarbone in the bunch sprint at the end of the final stage of the Tour of Poland in Krakow. He is not set to return to competitive action until Paris-Brussels, just two weeks ahead of the Worlds, and Jalabert is not optimistic about his chances of selection.
“In my opinion, he won’t be on the plane,” Jalabert told L’Équipe. “He was the rider who offered the most guarantees, but his injury has come at the worst moment. He won’t be back until Paris-Brussels, a fortnight before Copenhagen. I don’t want to discourage him, I know that he is doing everything possible to get back in time, but it’s started badly.”
With eight victories to his name this season, Feillu appeared to be the French rider best-suited to the sprinters’ course in Denmark, and Jalabert acknowledged that a fully-fit Feillu would have led his line-up.
“With Feillu on top form, it would have been all for him,” Jalabert said. “This season, he has been the best. Last year in Melbourne, he didn’t disappoint me [Feillu finished 10th in the 2010 Worlds – ed], so it was logical that I would give him my confidence again.”
As Feillu’s participation hangs in the balance, a number of other French fast men will have a chance to stake their claim for a protected role in Jalabert’s squad over the coming weeks. Chief among them is Samuel Dumoulin (Cofidis), who enjoyed a fine audition in national colours at the weekend. He took third place at the London-Surrey Cycle Classic, fresh on the heels of victory at Paris-Corrèze, and the uphill sprint in Copenhagen should suit his characteristics.
“Given his results, it’s normal that he was up there,” Jalabert said of Dumoulin's performance in London, although he warned that he has yet to book his seat on the plane to Denmark.
“If Feillu isn’t in Copenhagen, I still don’t know what we will do. Nothing has been decided, the selection is very open. If tomorrow, [Anthony] Ravard, [Lloyd] Mondory or [Jimmy] Casper start rattling off victories, they could have their place.”
While Jalabert waits on Feillu and gauges the form of his other sprinters, he can console himself with the fact that he will be able to bring nine riders to the Worlds for the first time in his tenure as national coach. Although Ag2r-La Mondiale is the sole French squad in the WorldTour, French riders have accumulated enough points to put the country in the top ten of the UCI rankings and secure full representation in Copenhagen.
“It’s important,” Jalabert said. “10th place is still not among the best, but this season there have been a lot of encouraging signs.”
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