The men’s French Olympic squad is facing a crisis, as both of their chosen leaders have announced they will not be competing in Tokyo this summer.
Last month, reigning world champion Julian Alaphilippe announced that he would not be racing in the Olympic road race around Mount Fuji on July 24, despite being among the favourites to win gold on a tough climbing course.
Alaphilippe’s absence is a blow to French coach Thomas Voeckler, who was forced to choose another leader for the prestigious one-day race.
The first choice had been Grand Tour star Romain Bardet, who is racing his first season with Team DSM and finished seventh overall at the 2021 Giro d’Italia.
But the 30-year-old has now confirmed that he will not be racing in Tokyo, as he also wants to focus on goals later in the season.
Bardet told French newspaper L’Equipe: “After a three-way discussion with the team, Thomas, and myself, we decided that I will not participate in the Olympic Games this year.
"We have big goals with DSM that await us at the end of the season and it was not possible to have peak form in Tokyo with this program.”
Bardet had originally based his 2021 season around the Olympics, as the 234km-long, 4,800m elevation game road race suited his characteristics.
He opted make his Giro d’Italia debut this season and skip the Tour de France, owing to the short time frame between the final stage of the Tour and the Olympics.
But Bardet now plans to race the Vuelta a España, where he is likely to lead Team DSM once again.
Voeckler’s remaining still has the choice of a handful of star climbers for the men’s Olympic squad including Guillaume Martin (Cofidis), David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ), Warren Barguil (Arkéa-Samsic) among others.
The Tokyo Games, already postponed from 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, are still under threat of cancellation as public opposition to hosting the event mounts.
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