QuickStep-AlphaVinyl team manager Patrick Lefevere has revealed his strategy for selecting the eight riders for this year’s Tour de France, confirming that Julian Alaphilippe will ride if he is fit, that Mark Cavendish remains ready in case Fabio Jakobsen has problems, while Kasper Asgreen will target the time trial to ensure the team’s best possible place for the team car convoy position.
Lefevere revealed his philosophy in his regular weekend column in for Het Nieuwsblad (opens in new tab).
“We always work with a long list: a number of riders already know from the first training camp of the season that we are looking at them for the Tour. After Switzerland we will go from eleven names to the final eight names,” Lefevere said.
Most teams have a weekly catch-up with management and directeur sportif on a Monday and the call after the Tour de Suisse will finalise the names of the eight riders for the Tour de France after a check of their performances fitness and the team’s ambitions.
The risk of COVID-19 infections means teams are keeping a number of riders on stand-by in case they are needed for a late call-up.
“Usually we arrive at our eight names fairly unanimously. It's not rocket science either,” Lefevere said.
QuickStep-AlphaVinyl is not targeting overall victory at the Tour de France and so will select a team to target stage victories in the sprints and whenever the terrain suits them.
Illness and injury disrupted QuickStep-AlphaVinyl’s spring and world champion Julian Alaphilippe suffered a punctured lung, fractured ribs and fractured shoulder blade in a high-speed crash at Liège-Bastogne-Liège. He spent several days in hospital and several weeks off the bike but is back training and has been working at altitude in hope of building some kind of fitness for the Tour de France.
Alaphilippe has not raced since his crash but will be selected if he can build some kind of form for the end of June.
“If Alaphilippe gets fit, he will come,” Lefevere made clear.
“We're not going to be secretive about that. He is making good progress with altitude training in the Sierra Nevada, but with all due respect: there is a big difference between training uphill with Yves Lampaert or Tim Declercq and effectively participating in the race.”
Lefevere confirmed that Jakobsen is QuickStep-AlphaVinyl's first pick for the sprinter role. Mark Cavendish won four stages and the green points jersey last year when he was a late replacement for Sam Bennett.
Cavendish recently completed the Giro d’Italia and a number of one-day races. It is unclear if Cavendish will stay with QuickStep-AlphaVinyl beyond 2022 but Lefevere insisted the Manxman was loyal to the team’s cause and ready to step-up if needed again.
“It is no secret that we are going to sprint in the Tour with Fabio Jakobsen. Although I will continue to speak with two names until ad nauseam,” he said.
“Last year, Sam Bennett was also a certainty, so to speak, but in the end Cavendish went to the Tour. I talked to him on the last weekend of the Giro. Mark said: ‘I'm a pro, I'll be ready until the last day.’”
Whoever sprints for QuickStep-AlphaVinyl at the Tour de France they will have a quality lead-out train.
“Obviously, if you're going with a sprinter, you also need a lead-out. Until further notice, Michael Mørkøv is the best in the world in that role,” Lefevere said.
“Yves Lampaert and/or Florian Sénéchal have their place on the train. And because as a sprinter team you have to control the race, you also need a profile like Tim Declercq or Josef Cerny. Unfortunately, the latter fell ill again in the Dauphiné.”
Lefevere knows the importance of team car positioning in the Tour de France convoy, so that riders can be serviced and supported quickly at any moment.
For that reason Kasper Asgreen will target the time trial, even if he has little chance of victory against Filippo Ganna and Wout van Aert.
“If you give up the time trial, you also give up the classification and you drive in the support car in position twenty behind the peloton,” Lefevere explained.
“You don't want to experience that if the cobblestone ride to Arenberg is planned on Wednesday. We are counting on Kasper Asgreen for the time trial. Remi Cavagna is also an option.
“We will not go to the Tour with an outspoken classification man, even without his difficult preparation, we would not burn out Alaphilippe that way. But because of the convoy position, we have to stay near our riders. For that reason Mattia Cattaneo and Dries Devenyns can be used anywhere in the team and at the same time can ride classification.”
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Stephen is the most experienced member of the Cyclingnews team, having reported on professional cycling since 1994. He has held the position of European editor since 2012 and previously worked for Reuters, Shift Active Media, and Cycling Weekly, among other publications.