Faced with riders like Mathieu van der Poel, Wout Van Aert and Tadej Pogacar, “the march is high” for the Blues at the Paris Olympics this summer, but “not inaccessible”, underlines the coach of the French cycling team on the road, Thomas Voeckler, in an interview with AFP.
QUESTION: the Olympic route for the road race on August 3 is designed for what type of runner?
ANSWER: “We can safely say that it is not suitable for a pure climber. It's not just another classic or another Monument. It will be a very unusual race. Because of the stakes but also with the peloton reduced to 90 riders. The big nations (which have the maximum quota of four riders per team) will have less of an advantage because they will have less of a surplus. It will take vigilance, humility and consideration of all adversaries.”
Q: Is a surprise possible?
A: “Why not, but I think we will still find the strong ones in front. We can imagine a scenario like that of the Tokyo Olympics. Richard Carapaz was not necessarily mentioned among the very first favorites and it is he who becomes Olympic champion, not (Tadej) Pogacar. But Carapaz is still solid. This is very good since the French runners are more in this register than that of ultra-favorites. When there are Van der Poels, Van Aerts and Pogacars opposite, the step is high. But not inaccessible.”
Q: When will you give your selection?
A: “It is not validated yet but probably around July 5. There are definitely runners who are already on my shortlist. But today everything is not yet determined, far from it.”
Q: Is it an advantage or a disadvantage to race the Tour de France just before the Olympics, knowing that Julian Alaphilippe will not participate?
A: “Opinions are divided. There is no exact science. Today, with the degree of mastery of training, I believe in preparation outside the Tour de France for an event like that. Now there is a recipe that suits this or that runner, depending on profile, experience and training abilities. It's really on a case by case basis. But you will still have to give me guarantees, that’s clear. I won’t settle for a yes, yes I feel good.”
Q: What will be your strategy for the time trial on July 27?
A: “Unfortunately we will only have one representative at the start and he must, according to the regulations, participate in the road race. When I took office in 2019, I firmly believed that I had a potential medal winner in the individual time trial. But I'm not going to sell dreams. If we look at the results, there is no reason for us to go for a medal. On the clock, there are no surprises. And not much strategy either. It's mostly preparation and I can't control that. It's not my job. It’s up to the runners to prepare.”
Q: Could you suddenly forego aligning a specialist for this exercise in order to favor online racing?
A: “I will have choices to make. But, even if the medal seems unattainable, I don't want to go like a tourist in the time trial to finish 23rd. I also really believe in the dynamics of the French team. And for that, I don't want to do a week with a runner who is not a time specialist. But the participant in the time trial will have to be a pillar of the four riders who will be at the start of the road race. He must be able to play a role. Each rider represents 25% of a team. It is enormous."
Comments collected by Jacques KLOPP