Next Thursday, June 23, the 44.3 km of the Cholet circuit in Maine-et-Loire will award the title of Elite Champion of France time trial 2022. Among the best drivers in the country and leading candidates in blue white-and-red knitwear, a good number were able to be tested for the last time in competitive conditions last week on the roads of the Critérium du Dauphiné (2.UWT), despite the absence of runners such as Pierre Latour, a victim of a sharp drop in the Mercan’Tour Classic, or Alexys Brunel -not exhaustive list-. And the result of this timed effort between Montbrison and La Bâtie d’Urfé (31.9 km) was especially interesting for the next event.
Far behind the canonical time of the winner Filippo Ganna, the Frenchmen Bruno Armirail, Rémi Cavagna and Thibault Guernalec put on a handkerchief. In four seconds, more precisely (see classification). The reigning French champion and double time trial champion Benjamin Thomas, meanwhile, finished further behind, 29 seconds behind Bruno Armirail. Under these conditions, the fight promises to be fierce and exciting in less than two weeks.
Of course, all the drivers who want to win the national title in Cholet have taken the time to compare their time with that of their future French opponents. Despite a relatively disappointing time, the reigning French champion of the discipline, Benjamin Thomas, does not want to worry or draw hasty conclusions. “I saw that I finished about thirty seconds behind Bruno, Rémi and Thibault. They are direct competitors for the French Championship. David (Gaudu), who was fighting for the general, spent time like mine. He wasn’t necessarily having a great day at this Dauphiné time trial. It was hard for me to keep up. But keep in mind that this year I worked less on this exercise. He gave me a good training for the Championship, in the end “, relativizes the Cofidis corridor, the calm tone and the serene air, as very often. “I know myself, I’m a man of the championship and maybe I can get over D-Day. So I’m not worried about that. It was still a good time against a very high level. “.
A FIRST TREND … BUT NOTHING ELSE
Rémi Cavagna is also capable of (much) better. 3rd in the short time trial of the Tour du Pays Basque (7 km) and then a modest 33rd in the Tour de Romandie (15 km), the reigning French road champion competed his longest time of the season during the Dauphiné, so far . “I’m disappointed. I’m running out of power and watts at the moment. I should be able to put in one or two more teeth, but we have to keep working.”. The Auvergne of Quick Step-Alpha Vinyl knows that time is running out if they want to hope to win a second title on the clock, after 2020. “It would be nice if I came back soon. At the moment, I don’t have that extra that allowed me to be among the best last year, but you can’t give up.”.
Thibault Guernalec on the other hand, had a terrible day. Although he has not yet achieved a podium with the Elites in the National Championship, the specialist in the discipline is aware that this year he can aim for the heights. As long as you manage your effort better than at the Dauphiné. “I think I had a good time despite a small mistake at the beginning. I don’t know what I did … I left a little too calm. I didn’t realize that. There are still some adjustments to be made before the French Championship and a small level to get in shape before you get there. “. Best of all, last week’s time trial was Bruno Armirail. For a second. “If there’s a second on D-Day, I’ll like that. Even half a second would be enough for me. In 2013 I finished 2nd for two seconds in the French Espoirs Championship (behind Yoann Paillot, editor’s note). This time, I was ahead of Rémi Cavagna for a second. If I can have more, much better “he smiled DirectVelo at the start of the sixth stage on Friday.
The four aforementioned drivers dream of the same thing in Cholet: winning the national title. “The podium is already a good goal. The title is ambitious but nothing should be banned. “, confirms Thibault Guernalec. In bronze in 2020 and in silver in 2021, Bruno Armirail can have no more ambition than to win this time. “If the logic of this series could continue, it would be great. Anyway, when you’re a time trial runner, you go there as fast as you can. At the Dauphiné, you weren’t going to be 17th. You wanted a Top 5 or, at worst, a Top 10, but that’s it. In the French Championship I’m going to look for the title, that’s clearly the goal “.
A FEW DAYS LEFT TO ADJUST … WITHOUT MAKING TOO MUCH
Author of a great season so far for his debut on his new team Cofidis, Benjamin Thomas feels in the skin of the favorite in his own succession. It’s not about hiding, but he knows the task won’t be easy. “Yes, I will be the favorite, but I’m not under any pressure. I’ve had a lot of pressure in the past, at other events, and I know it’s pointless to add to it. I go there with confidence and to do the best I can. If I don’t win, it won’t be a tragedy in itself. But I will give my all to defend my title, that’s for sure “.
The Dauphiné time trial has confirmed Thibault Guernalec in the idea that he can expect great things at the end of the month. But he also knows that many things can change in two weeks. “At the moment we are practically together. I think there will be a good match. ‘stagnate’, warns the pilot of Team Arkéa-Samsic. A speech that did not fall on deaf ears when Bruno Armirail was asked about this observation of his compatriot. “I think I still have a lot of room for improvement. We just got out of high altitude, I got sick two days before the start of the Dauphiné and I barely got there. On Friday, I didn’t eat, I lacked strength. So it was tricky. I didn’t do many watts either. There is everything to solve “advances Groupama-FDJ Bigourdan, who will soon return to training at height at the Pic du Midi, where he has his habits, “To be as efficient as possible in the coming weeks”.
Now everyone hopes to recover as best they can from a demanding Critérium du Dauphiné. And it’s not about exceeding it a few days before the big meeting. “There will be even more work sessions but above all we will have to think about recovering instead of wanting to add workloads at any cost. The Dauphiné is an important and demanding race, and behind it will be the Tour de France. I no longer have the head for these deadlines “, tempera Benjamin Thomas. Perhaps also this famous desire not to put too much pressure on oneself. One thing is certain: many will be ambitious in Cholet and the battle promises to be tough and beautiful.