French national coach Thomas Voeckler is planning on using three leaders in his attempt to win the gold medal in the men’s road at the Tokyo Olympic Games.
Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck – Quick-Step), Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) and Romain Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale) are all already on Voeckler’s team-sheet for the race that takes in the foothills of Mount Fuji, according to Ouest-France.
This tactic mirrors the recent thinking of some WorldTour teams. Movistar have turned up, albeit unsuccessfully, to a number of Tours de France with the trident of Alejandro Valverde, Nairo Quintana and Mikel Landa. For the 2020 Tour, Jumbo-Visma have already said they will be taking Tom Dumoulin, Primož Roglič and Steven Kruijswijk.
Voeckler says this strategy helps to reduce the unpredictable nature of bike races and gives his nation a greater chance of winning gold. “Cycling is and remains unpredictable,” Voeckler said. “But I now count on Alaphilippe, Pinot and Bardet. Julian and Thibaut will ride the Tour de France in the run-up to the Games.”
With less than a week separating the end of the Tour de France on the Champs-Élysées in Paris and the start line in Tokyo, Voeckler will look for fresh legs in the form of Romain Bardet as a rider not coming straight off the back of a Grand Tour.
“I also want a rider in the selection who does not have the Tour in his legs,” said Voeckler. “The ultimate goal is, of course, that golden slice, but at least we go for a medal. I also hope that we can determine the competition and that we allow each other the space.”
Before the Olympics, his riders have ambitions of their own away from the national federation. Julian Alaphilippe will look to win his second Monument at the Tour of Flanders, his first appearance at the race. Meanwhile, Thibaut Pinot will look to take a first French general classification victory at the Tour de France since 1985, having succumbed to injury in the final stages of the 2019 edition.
“I think that Julian can already win the Tour of Flanders this year, while Thibaut is able to finish first at the Tour,” Voeckler said. “He has opted for a good preparation schedule, first with Paris-Nice and then some classics. He will take revenge after a disappointing edition [last year].”
Vincenzo Nibali, Alejandro Valverde, and Chris Froome are likely to provide stiff competition for the French trio in what should be a captivating road race that will see Greg Van Avermaet succeeded as the peloton’s Olympic champion.