Julian Alaphilippe, the best card of the French team

For Thomas Voeckler, things are clear. This Sunday, September 25, the coach of the France team will play “win” in the line race of the World Road Cycling Championships (Eurosport at 2:15 am and France 3 at 5 am). Nothing less. In Wollongong, in south-east Australia, Vendéen has protected status. For two years, the rainbow jersey has been placed on the shoulders of one of his men, always the same: the puncher Julian Alaphilippe.

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His participation, an uncertain time, after the fall that forced him to leave the Tour of Spain on August 31, he is well on his way to New South Wales, where he aims for a third consecutive title. An achievement achieved only by the Slovak Peter Sagan (2015 to 2017) in a century in the history of the competition.

France has “almost the best team” in this edition, argued former cyclist Jacky Durand, Eurosport consultant. However, he did not leave with the status of a favorite. The reason? The champion, who has not raced since his accident at the Vuelta, remains in doubt over his form. A few days before the deadline, Thomas Voeckler himself slipped that the expectations for the tricolor collective are not limited to Julian Alaphilippe. “If we look at the composition of the group, there are, depending on the scenarios of the race, many men who have a chance to be champion”he is advanced.

Eight and one for France

With a place reserved for the defending champion regardless of the quota of eight riders to which it is entitled, France is the only country with nine men at the start of this Sunday. Among them: Christophe Laporte, the only French stage winner of the Tour in 2022 – and pilot fish for the rest of the year in the Jumbo-Visma team of the Belgian favorite Wout van Aert -, the climber Romain Bardet or even the versatile Valentin Madouas , in good shape.

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But especially Benoît Cosnefroy concentrated hopes, after his victory in the Grand Prix de Québec, on September 9, where he dominated some contenders for the world title. Especially the hilly circuit of Wollongong “perfectly suited to him”, according to Voeckler. Norman, who initially refused any involvement in the World, surprised everyone on Monday night in Australia. What gives the rider of the AG2R-Citroën team the air of a generous person.

Cyrille Guimard does not believe this. “In an uncontrolled or slightly uncontrolled race, yes, he has the qualities to go for a victory, that’s clear… But not in a unique leading position”, lined up to follow Thomas Voeckler at the head of the national team. In the eyes of the former sports director, Benoît Cosnefroy is still below the headliners of the world, such as Wout van Aert, his compatriot Remco Evenepoel, the Dutchman Mathieu van der Poel or the Slovenian Tadej Pogacar.

The Importance of a “Great Leader”

“We have three or four riders who are able to climb the podium. But, after two world championship titles, do we settle for third place or bet everything on a rider who is able to find victory? », pretending to be surprised by former runner Jacky Durand. With less guarantee than the two previous editions, the Blues’ best card is that Julian Alaphilippe remains. “On paper, his preparation is good: a few days in the Tour of Spain, a little recovery and the world championships. In the meantime, there is this fall. He doesn’t talk much about it, but, in my opinion, if he has at the start of the world championships, this is because the last ten days have been conclusive in terms of training.analyzes the Eurosport commentator.

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Whatever the level of performance of the Saint-Amand-Montrond (Cher) native, he will be the common thread of the French team, assures Cyrille Guimard. “The uncertainty is whether he plays 100% or 80%. » And development: “If he plays at 80%, that means he is at the level of the other riders in the group and therefore the strategies, the running movements are different. But he will give the “la”. A good leader can also to allow teammates to go for the win. »

secret weapon

Invited by the Belgian newspaper newblad to lend themselves to the game of favourites, Eritrean Biniam Girmay – a man to follow this Sunday – cited Wout van Aert, Mathieu van der Poel and the Australian puncher-sprinter Michael Matthews, who has- galvanized by an appointment at home. But not Alaphilippe. Does this French “demotion” allow the Blues to offload some of the weight of the race? “Julian is still famous for his opponentsswept the Guimard. The big favorites will look at him like burnt milk, considering he is 100%. »

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However, the French team can also, when the time comes, a secret weapon. “Thomas Voeckler sometimes has a surprising tactics, like last year, when he decided to strengthen the race very far from the finish.remembers Jacky Durand. He has this experience on the pitch and he knows his riders very well. » If not, the 267 kilometers of the road race come at the end of a long season, when accumulated fatigue can lead to unexpected failures. “It’s not always the biggest favorite that winsVoeckler repeated. There can be surprises in a world championship, it has happened. »

For a long time, the French limited their ambitions “best result” at the time of the World, content with fifth or sixth place. Now, the doctrine has changed, Durand insists: “Hit or miss. We’re world champions or we’re 25ᵉ. If so, it’s okay, we’ve tried everything. »

The course of the road race: 267 km of hills that “create very different racing scenarios”

The road race of the worlds, Sunday, September 25, is contested over a course of 266.9 kilometers with a hilly profile. The peloton starts from Helensburgh, south of Sydney. It covers about thirty relatively flat kilometers south of the Pacific Ocean, before a 34.2 km loop, marked especially by the ascent of Mount Keira – 8.7 km, with an average gradient of 5%. Then the riders enter the urban circuit of Wollongong (17.1 km) for twelve laps. Mount Pleasant – 7.7% average at 1.1 km – whose summit points 6.9 km from the finish, will serve as a launching pad for “punchers”, those runners who are able to dig gaps in a very fast way in short but steep climb. “We have a track that can create very different racing scenarios. That’s why I put together a pretty heterogeneous group.argued, before starting, the coach of the French team, Thomas Voeckler.

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