France have been dealt a further blow to their Olympic hopes as Romain Bardet has confirmed he will not take part in the Games in Tokyo later this summer.
National coach Thomas Voeckler already had to re-think his plans after the withdrawal of world champion Julian Alaphilippe last month and he will now have do without the rider who was second in the leadership line.
Bardet, who won the silver medal at the UCI Road World Championships in 2018, had previously outlined the Tokyo road race, which takes place on a similarly hilly course, as one of his key ambitions for 2021.
However, there has been an about-turn, with Bardet and his team, DSM, deciding the Olympics don’t fit in with his plans for the rest of the season.
"After a three-way discussion between myself, my team, and Thomas, we have decided that I will not participate in the Games," Bardet told L’Equipe. "We have big objectives with DSM which await towards the end of the season, and it wasn’t possible to have a peak of form in Tokyo with that programme."
Bardet confirmed the decision to L’Equipe but the news was broken by RMC Sport, whose report quoted a source from the French camp suggesting the decision came from Team DSM and was "firm and definitive".
Having placed seventh overall at the recent Giro d’Italia, Bardet is expected to skip the Tour de France and target the Vuelta a España later in the season. The Olympic road race in Tokyo takes place on July 24, three weeks ahead of the start of the Vuelta in northern Spain.
Bardet’s absence is another blow for Voeckler, who felt he’d lost a ‘golden opportunity’ when Alaphilippe announced his surprise decision to skip the Games. While the world champion was envisaged as the leading light, Bardet had been highlighted for a leading role alongside Thibaut Pinot, whose own prospects are up in the air as he struggles to return from a back injury.
Instead, France are likely look to David Gaudu and Guillaume Martin for the 234km race, which features nearly 5000 metres of elevation gain. There are five spots in total, with the other riders on the longlist published at the start of the year including Warren Barguil, Pierre Latour, Valentin Madouas, Benoît Cosnefroy, Remi Cavagna, Julien Bernard, Pierre Rolland, Nans Peters, Kenny Elissonde and Bruno Armirail.
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