Mark Cavendish and world champion Julian Alaphilippe are both absent from the QuickStep-AlphaVinyl Tour de France team with the Belgian squad opting to build their hopes around sprinter Fabio Jakobsen, Kasper Asgreen and Mattia Cattaneo.
Cavendish won the British national road race championships on Sunday and four stages and the green points jersey in 2021, but QuickStep-AlphaVinyl had always planned for Jakobsen to be their single sprint option. Cavendish was named as a reserve, on standby to travel to Copenhagen if needed. New French national champion Florian Sénéchal is another reserve.
Alaphilippe rode the French national championships but struggled to find the form needed for the three-week Grand Tour following his high-speed crash at Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
The eight riders selected are: Kasper Asgreen, Andrea Bagioli, Mattia Cattaneo, Tim Declercq, Mikkel Honoré, Fabio Jakobsen, Yves Lampaert and Michael Mørkøv.
There was no mention of Alaphillipe’s name in QuickStep-AlphaVinyl’s Tour de France announcement.
The Frenchman had spent several weeks off the bike after suffering a punctured lung, fractured ribs and fractured shoulder blade in a high-speed crash at Liège-Bastogne-Liège. He attended a three-week altitude camp in May but was recently slowed by a stomach problem and only tested his fitness at the French national championships.
“The question is: will the Tour help him to progress or will it be counter-productive for Julian?” His coach and brother Franck Alaphilippe told L’Equipe on Sunday.
“Above all, we don’t want to be stupid by selecting him if his condition is not sufficient.”
QuickStep-AlphaVinyl described Jakobsen as the “most successful sprinter of the year so far,” to help justify his selection.
The 25-year-old Dutch rider makes his Tour de France debut but has won five stages at the Vuelta a España. Jakobsen will have the support of several teammates to ensure he finishes inside the time limits on the mountain stages.
“We have riders who can support Fabio, riders who can climb, but who can also do something in the breakaways,” directeur sportif Tom Steels, said, explaining the QuickStep-AlphaVinyl line-up.
“Kasper, Yves and Michael will form a solid lead-out train for Fabio, who has proved how fast and strong he is in the sprints and will now get to discover Le Tour.
“Tim will be the guy to help him not only on the flat, but also in the mountains, where he’ll take care that Fabio makes it inside the time limit.”
Cattaneo finished 12th overall in the 2021 Tour de France and could do even better this year. There is no place for Fausto Masnada, while Honoré and Bagioli ride their first Tour de France.
“Mattia is very flexible, has more experience now and can go in some breakaways, where Andrea and Mikkel can support him. Mikkel has improved a lot since joining the team and deserves his place in the team, while Andrea is a winner and has shown he has the mentality to compete with the best,” Steels, who will lead the squad from the car together with Klaas Lodewyck and Wilfried Peeters, said.
Kasper Asgreen and Yves Lampaert will lead the search for stage wins on the cobbled stage and other testing stages.
“Over 3300 kilometers and more than 55 000 meters of elevation promise to make for a tough race. After the first ITT, we have two other days in Denmark, which should be for the sprinters, that is if we won’t have any echelons. The cobblestones stage will be a very tricky stage, as everyone will want to be at the front, and after this we’ll have a lot of climbing, with many iconic ascents of the Tour de France,” Steels predicted.
“The climbers and the puncheurs will get plenty of opportunities at this edition, unlike the sprinters, who’ll have to fight in many of the stages against the time limit. Overall, the race has something for everyone, and that’s why we are going there with a balanced team.”