Whatever he does, the favorite sign is over Julian Alaphilippe’s head. Two-time world champion, the Frenchman has the opportunity, on Sunday, September 25, to win a third consecutive title in the road cycling event in Wollongong (Australia). But after a dark season, made up of repeated falls and illnesses, the unknown form of the 30-year-old runner invites us to think of more plan B than in previous editions.
“I’m not in the best condition, confirmed, this Wednesday, the cyclist of the Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl team. I’m definitely not 100%. I’m not going to be rotten either, but I’m not going to arrive with the same guarantees as previous years either.” With a diminished leader, is this the end of tricolor hopes? No way.
The timing could have been poorly chosen as the France squad harbors talent, some of whom could have played as leaders in less-provided teams. “A very good team on paper, perhaps the most complete” never had, coach Thomas Voeckler admitted.
The latter obviously didn’t want to reveal his strategy, but Julian Alaphilippe admitted that he wasn’t the Blues’ only card. “I am one of the leaders but I am not the only leader and that suits me very well.he said at a news conference on Wednesday. There are riders from the French team who have done better than me in recent weeks and to whom the race suits them very well too”.
“I’ll be very happy to do my best for them. It’s by playing in the collective that we’ll go far.”Julian Alaphilippe
at a press conference
The thoughts of the holder of the iridescent jersey necessarily turn to Benoît Cosnefroy. At the beginning of September, the Norman distinguished himself by winning the Québec Grand Prix, whose field featured some World Championship favorites (Wout van Aert, Biniam Girmay, Tadej Pogacar). “The victory in Quebec released many things”slipped on Wednesday after his last-minute arrival in Australia.
Because the driver of the AG2R Citroën team was not initially foreseen in the selection of Thomas Voeckler. Never short of ideas to surprise the world of him, the coach pulled him out of the hat at the last moment. Without a doubt, a desire to cover the tracks until the end for the teams that compete.
Benoît Cosnefroy replaces Rémi Cavagna in Sunday’s elite men’s race pic.twitter.com/thySeuejuv
– FFC (@FFCycling) September 21, 2022
Another fit rider at the end of the season, Valentin Madouas should be among the protégés of the group. His third place in the Tour of Flanders in April confirmed his potential and his taste for one-day races, so special in his tactical approach. “It’s a time of year when I always feel good. I am here for the French team to win this race, if I have the chance to take it, I will take it.” did not hide the Breton.
Great architect, thanks to his work, of Julian Alaphilippe’s last two titles, Valentin Madouas has progressed this season. His three wins in September at the Tour du Doubs and two stages at the Tour du Luxembourg show that his legs are there.
World runner-up in 2018 in Innsbruck (Austria), Romain Bardet also gains momentum in September. He was in particular at the Montreal Grand Prix fight (8th), on September 11. His experience and his qualities as a climber can be very useful in Mount Pleasant (1.1 km at 7.7% with a maximum step at 14%), which will be climbed twelve times. “The slope is quite irregular, the repetition of the ascent will surely cause groups to form. It may come in handy for our team that provides a lot of density”stressed the dean of Blues.
The similar profile of Pavel Sivakov, who will celebrate his first selection for the France team, may also prove valuable. But his position as a rookie will surely place him among the team members in the same way as Bruno Armirail or Quentin Pacher.
Should the race take time to settle, France also have two great assets with a huge burst of speed. The first is called Christophe Laporte. Since his arrival at the Dutch team Jumbo-Visma at the beginning of the season, the former Cofidis member has reached a real plateau. This is attested to by his four successes of the year, including a stage in Paris-Nice and one in the Tour de France. “I’m a fast runner and we can play on that, we really have several cards to play,” declared.
Christophe Laporte also has the advantage of knowing the Belgian Wout van Aert perfectly, of whom he is a teammate in Jumbo-Visma. In the final package, Florian Sénéchal can also take advantage of his top speed, either to throw to a teammate or play his personal card.
A year after the Blues’ tactical recital in Belgium, all options are on the table in Australia. Especially since the strength of this team lies as much in the qualities of Julian Alaphilippe as in the cohesion of the group. “I would be very happy to relive what we have lived through for the last two years. And I think I would be even happier if it is one of my colleagues who wins.”, even concluded the two-time world champion. As long as the rainbow jersey stays in France…
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