What does the course of Cholet look like?
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Which teams will be overcrowded?
As usual, the road race for the French championships will be a separate race. Obviously because it is short circuit but also and above all because the main French teams come very, very armed. Forget the limitations of six, seven or eight riders as you are used to seeing throughout the year, the big teams will have control over the race.
Thus B&B Hotels – KTM will have the advantage of numbers with 17 men on the starting line ahead of Arkéa-Samsic who will be 15. Usually the most prominent team in this race so dear to Marc Madiot, Groupama-FDJ, will be 13 riders strong, just like the Cofidis. Follow Total-Energies and AG2R-Citroën after the withdrawal of Berthet, Prodhomme and Calmejane (14) then the second and third division teams.
Also note, as every year, the presence of almost lonely runners. Julian Alaphilippe will have two teammates at his side with Rémi Cavagna and Florian Sénéchal for the Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl. Rudy Barbier will be alone at Israel – Premier Tech while Pavel Sivakov (INEOS Grenadiers), who could have played his first French championship, has withdrawn (sick).
Who are the favourites?
One name is on everyone’s lips: Arnaud Démare. The man with three French championship titles can join Jean Stablinski and his four tricolor jerseys in the pantheon. Best sprinter of the last Giro, the Picard has made a place for himself among the world elite and in France he has no opponent of his size. With a large Groupama-FDJ team completely at his service, he has a highway to the title.
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Among his adversaries, we could have mentioned Nacer Bouhanni but he is recovering from his terrible fall in the Tour of Turkey and will not be present. We will therefore think of Marc Sarreau (Ag2r-Citroën), Hugo Hofstetter (Arkéa-Samsic), Lorrenzo Manzin (TotalEnergies) and especially Bryan Coquard (Cofidis). This is the only one in this list to have beaten Démare this season but on a difficult arrival. In a clear massive sprint, Démare is the huge favourite. His adversaries will therefore have to seek to avoid him.
Can Alaphilippe influence the race?
One thing is certain, seeing Julian Alaphilippe on a bike will please everyone. His fall and his injuries in Liège-Bastogne-Liège had worried beyond the world of cycling and the reigning double world champion will give a bib for the first time since, two months later.
Bardet came to the aid of Alaphilippe after his fall
Already four times in the Top 5 (5th in 2015 and 2016, 3rd in 2018 and 2020), the Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl rider has a particular appetite for circuit racing and he often leads the French championship even if the title still refuses him. Barring a monumental surprise, this will still be the case on Sunday evening, for two reasons.
The first is that the state of form of Julian Alaphilippe is a real question after two months without competition following a severe fall. Admittedly, he spent a lot of time at altitude in Spain, but how will he withstand the 240 kilometers? No one knows. The second is due to the course which does not correspond to him at all. An Alaphilippe in top form might have invented something. This time, he is probably coming to see where he is before deciding whether or not he will participate in the Tour de France.
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