Become a Member

Get access to more than 30 brands, premium video, exclusive content, events, mapping, and more.

Already have an account? Sign In

Become a Member

Get access to more than 30 brands, premium video, exclusive content, events, mapping, and more.

Already have an account? Sign In

Brands

News

Worlds road races could be very French affairs

Young Julian Alaphilippe may be France's best chance at breaking an 18-year drought in the elite men's road race at worlds.

Don't miss a moment from Paris-Roubaix and Unbound Gravel, to the Giro d’Italia, Tour de France, Vuelta a España, and everything in between when you join Outside+.

RICHMOND, Virginia (VN) — France isn’t the first country people consider when discussing the men’s road race at worlds, at least not in the current era. Though Pauline Ferrand-Prévot is the reigning women’s world champion on the road (and mountain and cyclocross), there hasn’t been a French world champ on the men’s side since Laurent Brochard in 1997. The most recent medal of any kind was won by Anthony Geslin, 10 years ago in Madrid.

That could change this year, as the French men come with two sprinters — Julian Alaphilippe and Nacer Bouhanni — who are suited to Richmond’s rolling parcours and are on many people’s shortlists of favorites for the rainbow jersey.

“It’s an atypical course, with the pave, corners. It’s hard to predict when you have pave like this,” said French national team coach Bernard Bourreau. “Yes, we have two sprinters, but for now we don’t have a strategy between them. The course will decide. It is very long, 260km, with many difficult sections. So, voilà, it will be decided on course.

“It’s not a course for climbers, that’s for sure. It’s good for Sagan, Boonen. It will be very dangerous. It will take a rider adapted to the pave, the Tour of Flanders.”

Alaphilippe, in particular, will be one to watch. While Spain’s Alejandro Valverde is a popular pick for Sunday — based on both his late-season form and his wins at Flèche-Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège — Alaphilippe was runner-up in both of those spring races.

“If he has the same legs, the same form that he had in the Ardennes, he has a chance,” Bourreau said.

Bouhanni is more of a pure sprinter but is still capable of getting over late-race humps, as evidenced by his sixth place at this year’s Milan-San Remo. But the winner of the points classification at the 2014 Giro also has a tendency to go down in crashes. He hit the pavement hard in the finale of this year’s French national championships then withdrew from the Tour de France just days later after injuring his ribs in a crash during a wet and sloppy stage 5. He also crashed out of the Vuelta.

With rain in the forecast for Sunday, Richmond’s cobbles could prove both treacherous and decisive.

“In the rain, that course is completely different,” Bourreau said. “It will be much, much more dangerous, and accidents will break the peloton up into small groups. Accidents will be unavoidable.

“It will end in a sprint, but from a small group.”

As for the women’s race, French team technical director Vincent Jacquet was less equivocal: “Pauline Ferrand-Prévot will win the gold. The objective is the same as last year.”